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Felipe’s Tacqueria is a family restaurant. It’s where people go with their parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, and uncles to share stories about traffic tickets and discuss Harvard t-shirt sizes for baby cousins. It’s not a late-night college eatery. It’s not where you go to eat a quesadilla when drunk.
Or at least not during commencement week. Not when my family had to take refuge from a long line at nearby Finale and ended up at the venerable home of the 2 a.m. Mexican delight. No, Felipe’s this week—Harvard this week—has been for families. And that has made Harvard altogether different.
A Harvard for families is an oddity. During my time here, Harvard had represented, among many other things, the absence of my family. Sure, there were visits, parents’ weekends, and move-ins. My mom has been horrified plenty of times over the course of four years by the condition of my room. My brother has met most of my friends and become a friend to many. But beyond these snippets from home, Harvard marked a different chapter in my life in which family dinners became blockmate dinners, and my home was replaced by a House.
It was never clear to what extent Harvard would ever become “home” for me. I’m a California boy answering to a Jewish mother. She would kindly ask Emily Dickinson to reconsider her refrain, “Where thou art, that is home.” No, not if your mother is not there. And, even when my mother was in Cambridge, she would note that not everybody else was. That’s not “home.” Besides, “home” should be sunnier.
But two factors made Harvard as much “home” this week as it ever could be. First, my family, en masse, has descended on Harvard. From Mama Ezy and Mommy Parvin down to little Alexa—we’re rolling “ten-deep.” That we means we’re always looking for an extra commencement ticket, that strangers and friends alike will be entrapped by our requests to snap group photos, and that the bet of the week is about whether my mom actually bought a full page ad in this issue of the Crimson (I don’t know as I write this). My family, unencumbered. That’s rolling “ten-deep” at home, where I come from.
Second, my Motorola Q phone, like everybody else’s, stopped working, making me inaccessible to anybody outside of my immediate vicinity. So, there have been fewer interruptions; my time has been less compartmentalized, so I could enjoy two hours at Felipe’s as if it was a Shabbat dinner. That’s how Felipe’s became a family restaurant.
This experience was as much a lesson about how much I loved “home” as it was about how much I loved Harvard. As good as it feels to have the family around, I hardly want that other four-year chapter to come to a close. But if it’s not where you are, but who you’re with, then perhaps the best things about college will continue to crop up.
That’s because Harvard is the people who constitute it. Years of clamoring for a better advising system, a real curricular review, a Pub, a student center, a 24-hour library, campus-wide concerts, and a host of other amenities—that was my job, after all, on the Crimson’s editorial board—masked an unassailable, deep satisfaction with the people that surrounded me. That will always be Harvard’s winning chip, and this week, it upped the ante.
Harvard students will often describe summer trips as “family vacations” regardless of whether they’re going to China, Argentina, or just across town. The important matter is that Mom, Dad, and the siblings are coming along. In much the same way, just a few days sooner than expected, I’ve found myself on a family vacation while staying at Harvard. That’s a nice place to be.
Michael B. Broukhim ’07 is a social studies concentrator in Dunster House. He was editorial chair of The Crimson in 2006.
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