Wishing You Were Here This Summer

Commentary

Many times this summer, you ate your lunch by the water-there were lovely breezes coming off the brilliant blue waves, and the sun was almost always shining in the sky. You had a good book, a home-made sandwich, lemonade and cookies spread out on a beach towel, and you were perfectly content. The view was incredible-the white boats cutting through the water, the light bouncing off the waves, and the glistening dome of the Harvard Business School. Wait a minute! The Business School? I thought we were at the beach.

Well, unfortunately, you didn't spend this summer at the beach. Or by the pool. Or at some gorgeous vacation spot where the days are filled with sun, sand and surf. You spent the summer in the Square, working 10 hours a day, five days a week. You were a tad bitter about this situation when the summer began; it had been a tough school year, and you were ready for a break. And who would want to spend their summer in the very city in which she had gone to school? Not you. Would you ever get away from this place?

But after your three month summer-by-the-river, you've changed your tune. You weren't the only student in the Square for the summer, and you couldn't all have been crazy to be here. And you've discovered that Harvard Square is truly a different place during the summer from what you experience from September to May. Don't get me wrong-it's no resort town-but the atmosphere is more laid back, the stress is (for the most part) gone, and you've come to see your college town in a whole new light. You even sometimes looked down toward a bend in the river and were reminded of Seurat's "Afternoon on the Grand Jatte," minus the parasols and bustles, of course.

During your lunch breaks and trips from one part-time job to the other, you began to picture Harvard Square as a sort of summer vacation spot. The tourists who fill Cambridge year-round seem to multiply in the summer, but it's a bit easier to appreciate their interest and excitement about Harvard in the summer. After all, the grass is green, the sun is shining, the buildings look their best. And, of course, there is no homework to make you want to accost the nearest camera-clicker and say, "Hey, you want to do my problem sets for me?"

The Yard became your park of choice, where you ate your lunch when you didn't have time to walk down by the river. University Hall, Hollis Hall, Mass. Hall, these became your "sightseeing spots." You could appreciate their architectural design and historic past when you didn't need to look forward to attending class or meeting the books on your desk. Instead of grumbling at the tourists who got in your way, you had a little more time to stop and take pictures for them and tell them where to find a good ice cream cone after a long hot tour through campus. You even let them know that one of the coolest (in both senses of the word) places in town to eat your black raspberry cone was by the fountain in front of the Faculty Club.

And when the heat got too much to handle even with your ice cream and fountain breezes (as it often did), your oasis was not a floating raft with a lemonade stuck in the cup holder but rather an air-conditioned building. Any air-conditioned building. And, like the cliche "any port in a storm," you found buildings this summer you hadn't had the opportunity to explore during the year. You checked out the Greek Vase Scholarship exhibit in Houghton Library, discovered the poetry room in Lamont and, of course, were able to be up-to-date on the latest sales at HMV and the Gap.

Your friends, calling and e-mailing from such exotic locales as Kansas, Montana, London and even Cape Cod chided you for your Cambridge-bound existence. "You need to get out of there," they scolded. "You can't spend 365 days in Cambridge."

You agreed with them, and so did your parents. So, in late August, you left your college town, work town, resort town, and headed for the real ocean, the real beach, a real vacation. But you left Cambridge with a different perspective on the place to which you returned a scant nine days later. The city has many facets and is many things to many people. In your case, it has become many things to just one person. When you lay on your raft at the beach, with a lemonade within arm's reach, you sort of missed your lazy lunch hours by the river, hours when you finally felt you owned a part of Cambridge, when you realized that the city had become not only where you went to school but where you truly lived.

Susannah B. Tobin '00, a Crimson editor, will be moving into Lowell House on Wednesday.