Graduation and Glass Flowers

Mom sent me off to Harvard with two requests. One: take a course with Everett I. Mendelsohn, her favorite professor from graduate school days. Two: go see the Glass Flowers at the Museum of Comparative Zoology.

I knocked off Request Number One along with a Core requirement by signing up for "Historical Studies A: Modern Science and Modern Societies" in the spring of my freshman year.

Since then, a horrific vision has sprouted in my brain:

Commencement morn. I roll out of bed, one or two hours of sleep, fumble around for my cap and gown. I search for housemates, hug roommates, line up for the thrilling yet teary-eyed procession into the Yard, and--

Ohhhhhhh, noooooooo--THE GLASS FLOWERS! I never saw the Glass Flowers! Where are the Glass Flowers? My mom put me through four years of college and I never had the decency to go see the Glass Flowers!

I break away from my baffled friends, sprint madly up Mass. Ave. with a distracted look in my eyes, and disappear into the mist. It's not clear whether or not I graduate or whether I am disowned.

I say the vision has sprouted in my brain. But I guess I should change tenses now. I finally did it, you see. I really wouldn't have on my own. But a friend from home came up this week and did the tourist bit.

I tagged along.

For two-and-a-half days I reinterpreted my environment in terms of what would look best for the many photographs she took.

I did my best impersonation of a Crimson Key guide as we roamed campus. I tossed off witty anecdotes about classes in Sever, parties in Leverett, and myths about the John Harvard statue. I even remembered to tell her that the Science Center is supposed to look like a camera.

And sometime after lunch Wednesday, the activity died down. We entered the MCZ. I can't really describe the Glass Flowers, but not I know why my mom has stood in awe for the past 22 years. I especially liked the glass moldy peaches.

We looked at the guest register for that day, and found a bunch of Israels and Utahs and Hong Kongs, as well as scattered representatives of London, Yugoslavia, Alberta, Tegucigalpa, Paris, Hungary and Oslo.

I bought a postcard in the giftshop and sent it to my mom, and walked home with a clear conscience.

All of which reminds me of the month, three summers ago, when my parents, grandmother, brother and I vacationed in Austria and Switzerland. We spent the last week on a mountain called the Rigi Seebodenalp, near Lucerne.

One morning, the five of us set off for the town of Weggis, a good two-hour walk away. My brother and I walked ahead of the others, soon losing them. But we had agreed to meet at a church in the center of Weggis.