Freshman Parents' Weekend Report

<p>I just returned from a trip to Boston for Freshman Parents Weekend. On Friday morning D had classes, so I went by myself to some of the Harvard museums. The first thing I went to see was the famous glass flowers --> incredibly detailed, accurate, and life-like models of over 800 species of flowers, done entirely in glass - fine root hairs, thorns, everything in glass:</p>

<p><a href="http://www.journalofantiques.com/Feb04/featurefeb04.htm%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://www.journalofantiques.com/Feb04/featurefeb04.htm&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>They are amazing and don't look anything at all like glass. I'd be interested to see how those guys did it.</p>

<p>I also toured the rest of the museum - lots of stuffed animals and dinosaur bones. I then went to one of the special Parents' lectures - the Professor of Southwestern Archeology gave us a tour of their Mimbres pottery gallery. I had never heard of the Mimbres Indians before. They were contemporaries of the Anasazi but lived about 200 miles farther south. Their architecture wasn't much, but they made the finest pottery of any North American Indian tribe. They were painting Escher-like optical illusions on their pots 900 years before Escher was born.</p>

<p>That prof. has studied them the way some Classics scholars study Greek pots. He showed us all sorts of fascinating details. For example he says he is convinced that some of the fanciful scenes painted on the pots are meant to be humorous. No one knows what became of the Mimbres people or who their modern descendants are. So he has taken these pottery scenes around and shown them to tribal elders of modern southwestern tribes. But so far none of them has laughed. He says that when he finds one who gets the apparent joke he might have found the Mimbres' modern descendants. <a href="http://www.princetonol.com/groups/iad/Files/mimbres.htm%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://www.princetonol.com/groups/iad/Files/mimbres.htm&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>I met D after her classes and we went to lunch. She looked exactly the same: flip flops, high school track and field sweat pants, same hairstyle, same everything. We talked a lot. She seems very happy, almost bubbly. At one point I directly asked her if she is happy at Harvard, and she said: "Oh, I love it here!". After lunch we went back to the museum and I showed D the glass flowers and Mimbres pottery. And after that I took her shopping and bought her a winter coat. I could see she wasn't making any coat progress on her own. I figure once the first seriously-frigid storm comes howling down out of Canada, all the warm coats within walking distance from the college will quickly sell out. And her flimsy California clothes will not pull through for her.</p>

<p>She seems to be close friends with every single kid in her dorm. She says that Harvard students seem like regular kids most of the time, but these strange passionate discussions keep breaking out. For example she said they were sitting there watching the Red Sox game on TV and someone said something about Bismarck, and immediately a big discussion of 19th century German and Austrian politicians and their policies broke out. And nearly everybody knew all about them and had points to add to the arguments. </p>

<p>Harvard Square was alive with political activity, mostly vigorously anti-Bush. One group was singing their protests, singing quite well in fact. They must have been some sort of choir. Friday evening we went to a Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra concert at Sanders Theater. This group is the oldest symphony orchestra in the US (1808). They played some excellent Dvorak and Berlioz and some dreadful modern piece by a Harvard class of '02 alum. I guess you need to like modern abstract music to appreciate it. The orchestra was quite good. D was impressed with the bassoon section and thought she might try out some day. </p>

<p>Saturday morning I ate breakfast a local diner full of blue collar workers, roofers and such, all of whom spoke in authentic Good Will Hunting accents, and all were asking each other if they were going to the big Red Sox victory parade. Unfortunately it literally rained on their parade. There was a steady dismal drizzle all day. Fans were streaming in for the parade from all of the outlying towns causing the parade crowd to swell to an estimated 3.2 million. And with perhaps an estimated few hundred port-a-potties on hand, well one can only imagine....</p>

<p>Also, in keeping with current events, the panhandlers in Harvard Square were saying "Red Sox!" as they shook their paper cups instead of the usual "spare change?", as though your donation would somehow go to support the baseball team.</p>

<p>I met D in the late morning and we went to another one of the Parent's Weekend events --> the Harvard improvisational comedy troop performed based on stuff shouted out from the audience. It was pretty good. Afterward we ate our free meal at the freshman dining hall, which was packed due to the presence of all the parents. It was hard to find a place to sit. Later in the afternoon we went to a performance by three of Harvard's many student a capella singing groups. All three were incredibly good. And I learned a new term from D: "beat boxer". He's the guy in the singing group who essentially sings the percussion part. It's more like providing sound effects rather than actually singing, and we were honored to get to see the singing group that is said to have the very best beat boxer on campus.</p>

<p>So I must say that the trip was a success. The best part was hearing my D say she is very happy. We were worried by all the talk here on CC that Harvard gives short shrift to undergraduate education, and Yale and Princeton and LACs are so much better for the undergraduate experience, and so on. But like we also say here on CC, it's all about fit. And so far D has found an excellent fit.</p>

<p>coureur....loved reading your report and most of all to hear how happy your D is thus far at Harvard and all the friends she has made and how she found the perfect fit. We also just went to parent weekend a week ago with our freshman D at Brown and had a wonderful time as well. Like you, we saw an improv troupe and many excellent a capella groups and I felt like I was reading a report of OUR visit for a minute, lol. Also it was fun to read your impressions of Harvard. I lived in Cambridge for four years and I also went to grad school at Harvard so you were in my old stomping grounds. Sounds like everything was pretty positive all the way around for you guys.</p>

<p>Your D's comment about her fellow students is interesting. My D said of her fellow Brown students...."they're brilliant but know how to have fun." Your report reminded me of my D also cause she says that her fellow peers in her dorm have become a family and I cannot believe how many friends she has already. Isn't it great when your child is thrilled with their choice and enjoying all these new experiences? I couldn't be happier about how it has worked out for my child and it is a nice feeling to read of many other kids who are having the time of their lives in their freshman year of college. </p>

<p>Thanks for sharing.
Susan</p>

<p>Coureur:</p>

<p>I loved your report on the museums. Every school child in the city goes there at least once in elementary school. My S's dinosaur phase caused us to go there almost weekly for a while.
Great to hear your D is happy.</p>

<p>Yes, I remember the glass museum too! It is awesome! By the way, is this called the Museum of Comparative Zoology?</p>

<p>Achat:</p>

<p>It's actually a complex of museums: The Peabody Museum of Ethnology, the Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Comparative Zoology.</p>

<p>Thanks, Marite. I love EO Wilson's writings and I know he is associated with the Museum of Comparative Zoology.</p>

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<p>Yeah, and I think every one of those kids was there the same day I was. Especially in the stuffed animal and dinosaur bone sections, it was a constant stream of kids on field trips being herded by their frazzled-looking teachers. The pottery gallery was a lot quieter.</p>

<p>Coureur: LOL! </p>

<p>I can tell you today is a gorgeous Indian summer day, perfect for wearing flip flops; we did have to spend time yesterday raking leaves that fell the day before while the Red Sox parade was being rained on. But it's hard to believe that winter is a-coming.</p>

<p>Coureur: My S went to Harvard and he too was amazed at the passionate discussions of the students!!! He loved evey minute he was there and cried on graduation day! The school may not be devoted to the undergrad programs, but the sheer collection of brilliant minds of the student body makes up for that!</p>

<p>Coureur, The best part of the whole report was hearing that your daughter had so much to tell you and still is the same. It must have been wonderful to see her so happy and challenged.</p>

<p>Coureur, so glad your daughter is happy! It's such a wonderful feeling to see/hear them so enthusiastic and healthy-looking, isn't it?</p>

<p>It's funny, I think that perhaps parents may see the kids who are far away more than the close-by kids! I think my total time with son since the beginning of the school year is about an hour! (Most parents of older kids in the area say this is typical and that most parents don't see their sons/daughters until Thanksgiving--goodness, am I looking forward to that break!)</p>