Hello from the Miracle of Science Bar and Grill, Cambridge, Massachusetts. I’m drinking a Fisherman’s Ale, waiting on a veggie burger, Black Keys are coming from the ceiling, and my feet are aching. I found shelter just in time, moments before the third downpour of the day. Zoe and I are in Cambridge/Boston for MIT’s “Campus Preview Weekend”, an action-packed three-days filled with hundreds of events for pre-frosh and their parents. For many just-accepted high school seniors it’s a trip to decide if they want to come to MIT or do something less nerdy, but MIT was Zoe’s first choice and the admission letter came months ago (early admission) so for her this trip is much more about meeting people, sampling a couple classes, and figuring out where she wants to live. Oh, and partying. That is, if you count playing Rock Band at the Skull House until the wee morning hours and watching the Pavement documentary at the radio station partying.
I have to say, I’m impressed. This weekend doesn’t feel like it was put together by the admissions office, it feels like the whole campus came together to welcome the incoming class. The events range from the ridiculous (“Prom Dress Rugby”) to the nerdy (“Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream — Liquid Nitrogen is really cold. So is ice cream. Coincidence?”) to the straightforward/expected (“an intro to campus residence halls for parents”). The majority of them are student run and everyone is welcoming. I’ve seen plenty of nerdy, but no antisocial. On the contrary, I’ve seen people who might be antisocial in other settings running the social show. It’s inspiring.
I had the pleasure of seeing Donald Sadoway do his song/dance for parents on Thursday night. The guy is a rock star and I’m sure they paraded him out in front of us for a reason but if the instructors here are half as compelling as this guy was I’d feel like I was getting my money’s worth. He was brilliant, hilarious, and irreverent, played us songs, taught us chemistry, and railed against the treatment of women in science over the ages. He showed us research his team is doing to try to make steel production produce oxygen as a byproduct instead of carbon-dioxide (“what if people wanted the steel mill to be in their neighborhood because the trees were greener?”) and most importantly conveyed convincingly that the reason he is here is for the students, because these are our future leaders and they’re worthy of our investment.
(here’s a video of Donald Sadoway I found on YouTube)
I ate in a college dorm for the first time in my life (Zoe was on this planet by the time I started college so I lived in family housing at Indiana U). Zoe was off with friends so I braved this awkward first-time college experience not just twenty years too late but alone. I thought it might be traumatic, compounded by the fact that no one dares approach me because they have no idea where I fit — I look too old to be one of the students and too young to be one of the parents — I’ve freaked so many people out this weekend I’m starting to feel guilty and wonder if I should just lie and say I’m a grad student. But after sitting alone at the architecturally incredible Simmons Hall for a few minutes with my veggie quiche I invited myself to sit with an older couple who turned out to be the house-masters. John and Ellen were kind enough to give me tons of info about living at Simmons and existing at MIT. John is a Bio-Engineering professor (Zoe is planning to study Bio-Med-Engineering at the moment) and told us all about the research trip to Thailand he’s taking seven students on this summer. “Wow” to me, pretty much par for the course around here.
I can’t speak for Zoe just yet, but this weekend has been good for me. As anyone who has had the misfortune of bumping into me since Zoe was accepted to MIT knows, I’m incredibly proud of her for being the kind of kid a school like MIT (and five others) wants. But of course it also means that after 18 years of being my little girl, she’s going to move across the country and be an adult. Well, maybe not an adult, but a voting/buying guns-age college kid at the very least. It’s hard. I’ve nearly cried a dozen times this weekend and I stopped writing this paragraph five times already because I’m in a public place and trying not to be the dude in a bar typing in Pages, drinking his second beer, and welling up (fyi, I gave up, powered through, and shed a few tears in a public place. far as I could tell no one but the waitress bringing said second beer noticed). This weekend has eased me out a little bit, made me feel a part, put faces to the names of places and buildings I’ll be hearing about for the next four years. Part of the process.
[Zoe and me at Mark Thompon’s wedding, Portland, OR, March, 2008. foto by Molly Robinson.]
So cheers to MIT. Take care of my baby.
I’m off to see Yeasayer and Man Man with Mark Kates at The Paradise.