The ice crunches beneath my feet as I follow my roommates out into the middle of Eliot courtyard. It’s surprisingly bright out for 6:30 a.m., and some combination of adrenaline and the traditional Housing Day mimosa I consumed in one of the party suites robs the frigid wind of its sting. We stand with our backs to each other and shout at the surrounding walls. “Good morning Eliot! It’s Housing Day! It’s Housing Day! Get up, get up, get up!” We stand still for a moment, watching as lights start to pop on in the windows that line the courtyard. Eliot is waking up.
By 7 a.m., a small contingent of Eliotites has made it to the dining hall. More join them every minute. There’s a clash between throbbing dance music and yawning upperclassmen struggling to stir their coffee. I spot one of my friends—a sophomore—hunched over a bowl of cereal head in hands. He grimaces when he sees me. “Was that you shouting this morning?” he asks. I smile sheepishly. “It’s tradition!”
The energy in the room quickly begins to build. The chanting and dancing begins. Pajamas and jackets are shed in favor of the blue and red housing day shirt. Faces are painted. House Administrator Sue herds everyone outside for a picture. When we’re done, most of the jackets go back on. It is really cold outside.
This doesn’t faze Cam J. Heron ’14, a Stein Chair Emeritus; his shirtless torso is covered with blue and red handprints. I watch as he climbs on top of one of the tables and brandishes a sword above his head. By the time he’s done speaking, the crowd is riled up. With a cry of “Floreat Domus de Eliot!” he leaps off the table and charges out the door. We follow him to the yard where we proceed to chant and scream and yell. When the chill begins to creep in we take a lap around the yard. Then we take another. Did I mention it’s cold?
Luckily, we are delivered from imminent hypothermia by the arrival of our HoCo chairs with the letters. They have split them into stacks, which they distribute to the seniors who have been previously designated “Letter Captains.” Cam and I are paired up. We grab our stack and take off at full sprint towards Hurlbut, while a contingent of Eliotites trails behind us whooping and hollering. Our first delivery is a little anticlimactic. We charge around the corner, chanting “E-L-I-O-T. YOU JUST WON THE LOTTERY!” The door is already open and the three guys sitting in the room are surprisingly nonplussed. They stand and give us unenthusiastic high-fives as our yells begin to die out. I hold out the letter and shout the name printed on it and there is no response. Confused, I try a different pronunciation. Still nothing. On my third attempt one of the freshmen reaches out his hand to cut me off. “I guess I can take that.” There is no time to figure out what that was about. We are all too pumped. Someone shouts “Floreat Domus de Eliot” and receives an echo of “Domus!” in return. The horde retreats from the room and advances on Grays.
The second letter doesn’t go smoothly either. We swarm into the room and no one reacts. I look around and see a lot of hopeful faces and half-extended arms. There are too many of them. A quick headcount confirms there are at least two blocking groups in the room. The chanting dies as everyone comes to the same realization. From my perch on top of one of the desks I shout the name on the letter followed by “Welcome to Eliot!” This time the reaction is immediate. Half of the girls start to squeal as they pogo up and down in joy. The disappointment of the other half is visible on their faces. One girl starts to cry. I want to say something to her about how all the houses are great but I’m afraid it will seem disingenuous coming from the guy who seconds before had mistakenly congratulated her on “winning the lottery.” Instead I pretend not to notice as I hand out hugs and high-fives.
After that, we change our modus operandi to avoid any more awkward situations. When we approach the next few doors, we cover the peephole and chant the name on the letter. The rest of the deliveries go smoothly.
When our group has given out all of our letters, we join with the other Eliotites in front of Weld to deliver the final letter. There are hundreds of us, so I am still trying to squeeze my way on to the fourth floor landing when the letter is delivered on the fifth floor. I manage to work my way up the final flight of stairs in time to see the final blocking group beaming from ear to ear in the middle of a sea of blue shirts. Cam gives a speech and then it’s over. The crowd is slow to disperse.
We stroll back to Eliot in little groups, for once ignoring the cold. We’re hugging and sharing stories. We’re trying to make the moment last. I turn to a friend and tell him how much I love Eliot. “Of course you do!” he says. His eyes scan the little clusters of blue shirts walking around us. “Eliot isn’t just a dorm or a building,” he says “Eliot is a group of people. Eliot is a family.”