Spring of freshman year I went to talk to the head tutor about majoring in English.
"Will it matter that my father is a member of the department?"
"Absolutely not. No problem at all. Of course we except that you have a thorough knowledge of medieval Latin from your breakfast conversations."
There you have epitomized my whole experience as a "faculty brat:" It doesn't matter, but...
Actually it has mattered from the very beginning. Harvard never was a mystery to me. I have lived and breathed Harvard ever since I was six (we get our heat from the Bio Lab). As a freshman I knew that Vis. Stud. was a department and not a feminist porno magazine. The names, the buildings, the people, the places, the ins and the outs so confusing to newcomers were not only familiar to me but were part of me. I did not have a problem adjusting. Of course I lost a lot of the excitement of going away to college. But the "Harvard experience," we are always told, derives its uniqueness from the experience of the House, and like everyone else I was plunged into a totally new social situation which provided as much excitement as I needed.
In the throes of freshman paranoia, I could not convince myself that it was I, and not my father's "position," who was responsible for the thick envelope on April 16, 1972. It helped of course to have a roommate from High Point, North Carolina who was experiencing the similar agonies of "geographical distribution," it all seemed worth it, though, when spring came and the housing situation looked bad. I thought for sure that with a little string pulling ("Master's choice" was still barely alive) I could beat the odds and get into my first choice House. I experienced a sense of confidence (a strange emotion for freshmen) when I heard the words "I would be delighted to have your daughter in my House..." The inevitable "but" became painfully clear when housing assignments came out. I consoled myself with the thought that democracy is still alive at Harvard.
I complicated things by concentrating in my father's field. Technically this doesn't make any difference. There are no courses he offers that I need for requirements and my particular interests do not coincide with his specialty. But knowing all my professors--or rather having them know me--from the annual cocktail parties we had when my father was chairman, places me under a certain pressure. I feel badly about skipping lectures because it might be considered something of a personal affront. The situation is much worse with tutors and section people. After giving my name at the first meeting of a section this year, the sectionwoman asked: "Are you related to Morton Bloomfield?" "Yes, he's my father." "Oh, well he's one of my thesis advisors." Both my sophomore and junior tutors have been students of my father at one time or another. I feel that I have to do extraordinarily well so that I am a credit to my father. It is essentially an aggravated version of the familiar situation of children's success--or lack of it--reflecting directly on their parents. The pressure is always there, no matter how understanding a tutor is.
Sometimes, though, being recognized as my father's daughter is a nice experience. It is a thrill to me to meet people who admire my father. When I sectioned for an English course this semester, the head section man told me that the section I wanted was really crowded and would I mind choosing another time. I did and handed in my slip. "Oh," he said, "Are you related to Professor Bloomfield?" "Yes, he's my father." "Well in that case you can have any section you want. In fact, you can even teach a section!"
Hannah E. Bloomfield '76 is the daughter of Morton W. Bloomfield, Porter Professor of English. She lives in Leverett House.