Snapshot 1b: Harvard Yard

Continued from Thursday, September 20 post

Rachel left late Saturday afternoon to get back to Connecticut in time to see her oldest off to camp the next morning. Sheila packed her car early Sunday, after going for a run, and tiptoed out while half of us slept. (Considering she has a one year old and is starting her residency at Boston Medical Center, we were fortunate to have her with us as long as we did.) Isabel was next. Lauri, Luci, Desirée, and I drove to mass. We held hands during the Our Father and embraced during the sign of peace. Then it was time to say goodbye to Luci. Lauri dropped Desirée and me off at South Station, where she was meeting her teenage niece for the drive back to New Jersey.

And then there were two, the ladies who had traveled the farthest, Desiree from Los Angeles and me from ‘Burque. We spent the rest of the day in Cambridge, walking along the Charles, staring up at Leverett Towers, coaxing the Dunster House security guard to let us see the courtyard, buying Harvard paraphernalia for our families. We ate lunch at Café Algiers, one of the few businesses in the square that remains as it was when we were students. We ate ice cream. (Herrell’s, home of the smoosh in, is gone; but Lizzy’s was tasty.) I bought a used copy of Crossing the River by Caryl Phillips at an unmanned book table by the Education School Library, where I used to study when Harvard Yard felt oppressive. The Yard always felt oppressive. And this brings me back to memory.

I am 18 years old. It is a Thursday in early September, Freshman Registration Day at Harvard. My Uncle David lives in Washington D.C. His wife is a flight attendant so he can fly to Boston to be with me. He rents a car and picks up my high school friend Hernando and me from inner city Boston, where Hernando, who has changed his name to Alexi moved last week so he can study at U Mass Boston. We drive in circles around Harvard Square, through a tunnel that spit us out far from Harvard Yard and Massachusetts Avenue where I will live. We drive along the Charles River. The walls are red brick, covered in ivy. Horns honk. My uncle weaves his compact rental in and out of three fast moving lanes of traffic. We park. I take my big suitcase with small wheels and drag it behind me.

We walk into Harvard Yard through an iron gate, under a crest with a lion or dragon or the word Veritas. Uncle David and Hernando/Alexi follow a few steps behind me. Black cars parked outside red brick dorms, mothers with pageboy cuts and tall fathers in khaki pants and collared shirts. Sweat. From behind me, Hernando says, “God. I’m glad I don’t have to go here.”

Monday, September 24: Snapshot 1c: The Conclusion of Harvard Yard

Published in: on September 21, 2012 at 12:09 pm  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Oh, I wish my brother were alive to read this. He, too, went to Harvard, a scholarship kid from our steel-mill town, & I know it was pretty scary even for a white guy. When he died last Oct., @ his memorial service, his suite mates reminiced. That place seems to create life-long bonds–“prison friendships”? Your reunion sounded terrific & I’m glad to be hearing about it.

  2. My first view of Harvard Yard: Took the red eye from L.A. to Boston. My host father, Alan Morse, picked me up at the airport at dawn and let me nap at his house. Then he drove me and my five boxes of stuff to Cambridge. As he drove his SUV into the hallowed yard I think I held my breath. I saw those bricks walls covered in ivy just like the novels said and I knew I was home.

  3. I love the description of the traffic around the Square and the priceless comment from Alexi.

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