Ah, parent’s weekend. The joys of parading your kin all over campus to be ogled by your friends and associates. “Did you see —-‘s sister? She’s a treat.”, “—-‘s Dad is a total freak.”, “Hey —-, this is my mom and dad.”, “Oh, this is my mom and dad.”, “Hi, nice to meet you, I’ll forget your name within minutes, but let’s pretend we’re interested to humor our kids.”
Actually, though, it wasn’t that bad. I hadn’t seen my family since March, so we had some catching up to do. I got three excellent dinners, a dog and a new set of pillows and sheets out of it. I taught little siblings of friends of mine how to play pong. (Some of them booted; it was ugly.) I went swimming with my brother and proved to my mom that yes, I do still know where the library is. I got to meet everybody else’s parents and see where the insanity comes from, and my family was pretty cool, too.
It’s funny though, because no matter how much you show them, they never will understand exactly what goes on here. My own house was merely a shadow of its usual decadence, and they still thought it was too dirty. As I went around campus this weekend, everywhere students were going to bed early on a Saturday night because their parents were here. Cars were cleaned. Rooms were vacuumed. Hair was cut. Laundry was done. Showers were taken. Beer lay unconsumed. Basements were dark. Basically, sobriety reigned supreme. Why lie to our parents like that? Why mislead them so grossly as to the real goings on of this campus?
Because there is no way in hell they would pay $30,000 a year if they knew what really went on. My mom was bitching just because the picnic ran out of mustard, even though we arrived five minutes before they were supposed to close. “When I pay $30,000 a year, they damn well better have some mustard.”, “Okay, mom, I’ll go look for some, but the tuition doesn’t pay for the catering at parent’s weekend; that’s separate.”, “Well, what are they spending $30,000 on then? You’d think they could save a little on the side to make sure there are enough condiments when we come up to visit.”, “You’re right, mom, I’ll talk to somebody about that.”, “Thanks, Kev, you’re such a good boy.”, “Can we go to K-Mart now?”
And despite the fact that I didn’t relax at all this weekend because I was constantly trying to shepherd my family through the college without incriminating myself or my friends in anything sketchy, it was good to see them. They dragged me to mass for the first time in four months, but it felt good to see others of you who never go either get dragged along with me. The beauty of seeing your parents during college is that you genuinely miss them and are excited to see them at first, but just when you’re sick of them and want to get back to your life, they go away.
My brother’s flight on Sunday was canceled and he had to spend the night in my room again to catch a flight on Monday morning. Even though I had work to do, such as writing this, we sat around and watched a movie, one of those things we can’t do anymore. And even though I really needed Sunday night to get my life in order, one more night was the right amount of time to spend, reaffirm friendship and figure out when next our paths would cross. Having my brother in the real world come visit me at college was really funny because he saw all the stuff he used to do and couldn’t really believe I’m doing it now. It’s as though he saw that yes, the generation below him is the one having all the fun for now. The last time we really interacted I was still high school Kevy, but him seeing me interact in my own environment, I think, sort of made me college Kevy now, something he hadn’t understood yet. The same thing happened with my mom, too, even though she had to buy all sorts of stuff along the way for me to be straight with her.
But I guess the fact that we can project the facade of being worth $30,000 a year to go to summer camp this term must mean something, like maybe we aren’t inherently as lazy as it often appears, which is reassuring. And before enough time goes by that they can start tearing holes in our holographic world, before trash cans start to tip over and tallboys begin popping again, before snooze buttons are reactivated and laundry piles up, before tree and ship take on their accustomed meanings once again, they go home and we’re free.