CAMBRIDGE, MA—As my summer of copywriting and classes in Cambridge dwindled to a close last week, two inevitabilities approached: the beginning of class at the end of August, and a visit from my parents and younger brother.
Let it be known that my parents are upstanding people, and I love them. That said, nothing brings out the dormant thirteen-year-old in me like a visit from them. Suddenly, quirky habits become intolerable, and being cool—something I like to think I don’t care about—becomes critically important, for my parents are almost criminally uncool, in the shallowest sense of the word.
Yet sometimes I wish I could be more like them. Where I am cynical and condescending, they appreciate everything. On their visit, we ate at Crema Café, The Other Side on Newbury, and a hole-in-the-wall eatery in the North End called Ida’s. The food ranged from below-average to mediocre, but my parents and brother have a habit of declaring as they sign the check that every meal was the best they’ve ever had, no matter the quality. Since childhood, I’ve found it irritating and insincere—evidence that clearly, I am a changeling and belong with a clan of discerning, hypercritical gourmands. But this weekend, I mused: What if every meal I ate was actually better than the last? Every tourist trap the best I’ve ever been to? What if everything I did was the best thing ever?
It seems like a pretty pleasant way to live, even at the risk of my offspring considering me criminally uncool.
In that spirit, I decided that damn it, I was going to enjoy our excursion to Walden Pond. Admittedly, the trip had been my idea: A nature-lover I am not, but living in Cambridge for four years without paying homage to Thoreau seems a bit sacrilegious. But I remained apprehensive: The place is a tourist Mecca, and the prospect of forty minutes in a rental car with my dad’s show tunes was less than appealing. I won’t even go into my brother’s obsession with using my phone’s voice recognition feature to place calls to various parts of the female anatomy.
I was right to be apprehensive. Although it was certainly possible to find a quiet corner, the pond was flooded with visitors; the show tunes were annoying as expected; and despite my attempts to be patient, I finally snapped my phone shut after my brother’s edict that it “call tits.”
And I was right to suggest the trip in the first place: The picnicking hordes aren’t enough to erode Walden’s serenity. I had more fun than I’ve had in months gossiping with my mom, and convincing my brother that a real man would be able to catch his sister a fish with his bare hands (he tried for over an hour).
The more time I spend at Harvard and in Cambridge, the more of a culture shock my family becomes—a pocket of earnestness in my increasingly jaded life. It’s a universal kind of angst, but no less potent for its universality. And yet it has its uses—since my family left on Monday, I can’t help but think that Cambridge may well be the best city ever, and Walden the best pond (for whatever that’s worth).
Here’s hoping it lasts.
Abigail B. Lind ’12, a Crimson arts columnist, is an English concentrator in Currier House.