Nothing adds a little spice to the college experience like a parental visit.
Admittedly, I’m speaking from a distant perspective here. I’m 40 years old. It’s been almost 20 years since my parents visited me as a collegian — and that was for commencement. So I’m not exactly a current expert on the subject.
But memory says that Parents’ Weekend and other scheduled visits bring forth conflicting urges.
There’s that innate desire to clean up, do the big pile of laundry, wash the sheets, scrub the funk out of the bathtub, and show the folks you’re trustworthy and you’ve got your act together.
And then there’s the innate desire to rebel a little bit — to leave the beer bottlecap next to the kitchen sink, and the condom wrapper in the trash can — just to sting your folks with visible knowledge that you’re independent, and beyond their purview, and Charting Your Own Path, and Doing Your Own Thing.
(Not for years will you realize that they already know that. These are the people who remember changing your diaper and feeding you Ritz crackers to calm your three-year-old appetite as they cooked dinner, way back when in Nineteen Seventy-something. They already know you are functioning independently; the nightly silence in their house makes them keenly aware. But you feel the need to rub it in, all the same, because you don’t have the perspective to know any better.)
This week’s calendar entry captures that kind of moment.
If there was any tension between my grandparents and their only son/elder child, I suspect it had played itself out by May 1966.
At that point in time, my dad had completed his undergraduate degree, and had pretty well finished the additional work required for his master’s of science in management — the degree that kept him an extra year at RPI.
I’m fairly sure he was no longer living at the fraternity house where he’d spent some undergraduate time, as well. I believe he was living in a rat-infested off-campus apartment — the exterior of which I’ve seen two or three times. (Hopefully, the interior’s been improved since the Lyndon Johnson administration.)
I don’t know if my dad had his job offer in hand yet. But I know that just about a month later, he started work at the only company he would ever really work for. So he had probably gotten past his college indulgences and was ready to join the working world. In the month following Parents’ Weekend, my dad would put away collegiate things forever.
(If you’ve never read my “Blues for Mother Yellow” post about my dad’s corporate career, go read it now. I’ve been forming words into narratives since Nineteen Seventy-something, and they’ve never gotten better than they did that week.)
Still, I imagine Parents’ Weekend and the Talent Show were a spur for a long-ago cleanup … the impetus to get the underwear off the floor, and wash the dirty dishes, and open the windows to banish the reek of beer.
No matter how mature you are, or how close you are to turning your tassel, you never quite let it all hang out during Parents’ Weekend.