TALES FROM FIRST-YEAR PARENTS WEEKEND

Here for First-year Parents weekend, one mother strove to visit her son in Thayer Hall last Saturday. But, in a Yard jam-packed with throngs of political activists, tourists, trick-or-treaters and those seeking refuge from the rain, it was not quite that simple for her to get to her son, Christian P. Quilici '01.

So, instead of fighting the crowds she followed them in protest and chant as one person handed her a "free Tibet flag."

"It was such absolute chaos that she decided 'what the hell'" Quilici says.

Quilici's mother was one of hundreds of parents, many of whom had not seen their children for almost three months, who stormed the Yard last weekend amidst the thunderous crowds here for Chinese President's Jiang Zemin's arrival, the aftermath of Halloween, a relentless mid-term season and the unexpected visit of autumn showers. The resulting cacophony turned First-Year Parents Weekend--a traditionally chaotic time--off-the-hook.

Elizabeth S. Mahler '01 found it so difficult to juggle all these elements that she was still working on her Expository Writing paper when her parents walked in the door.

"I gave them a hug and sent them out on a walk for 20 minutes while I finished up," she says. "But, in general, this came in the middle of a very busy time of year academically. And the planned activities did seem designed to just keep the parents busy while their children went through the normal weekend routine--there did not seem to be much room to do stuff together."

Some students did not seem all that bothered by this prospect, as they found their first reunion at times tried both their patience and roommate relations.

"My mother and I have always gotten along well, but she was really working my last good nerve while she was here," Quilici says. "She was so sentimental and weepy every five minutes."

Once up in his room, Quilici's mother further irked him when she almost got into a "spat" with his roommate's mother.

"They began to make silly assumptions about my mother and I simply because of our zip code [90210]," he says. "She started to warn my mom that my roommate was a simple boy from Tennessee and blah blah and that pissed my mother off."

Another first-year recalls her mother getting a little too embroiled in roommate dynamics. Her parents have not liked one of her roommates since she strode in the first day of move-in and demanded that she receive a single; the ill will remained this past weekend.

Later, her mother also found herself lying over the phone to the parents of another of her daughter's roommates (who were not at Harvard for the weekend) about the whereabouts of their daughter, who was avoiding contact with them while she lived it up in New York City.

While some first-years were avoiding their own parents, one first-year found herself avoiding the parents of another student, her boyfriend's roommate, when she spent the night and woke at noon to the sound of a parent-son reunion in his common room.

"My boyfriend didn't want to get funny looks for the rest of the year from these parents for being such a player, so he asked me not to leave with him, but to wait until they left," she says.

The roommate's parents did not leave for another hour, even though she was long late to meet her own parents.