Iam always a little bit confused by the timing of Families Weekend. After all, it was only three weekends ago that many families dropped off us ungrateful kids for another year in Po-town. They helped us lift boxes containing the entire Harry Potter series and that Arctic Monkeys poster (you all know what I’m talking about) into sweltering, dusty dorm rooms. They were sweaty and proud and bored as they helped us hang up our whimsical little lanterns that will cause a fire drill at 3 a.m. the next week.
Soon we were moved in, so all that was left to do was complain about Twisted Soul being closed on Sundays. Because, as your precocious little brother points out, they really would make so much more money, and, as your mom chimes in, I need to have some of that goddamn Vassar Noodle.
For me, Families Weekend seems redundant: if you’re going to have your family come around this time of year, it may as well be to capitalize on some manual labor. Evidently, my family feels the same way, because I have never had a family member come up during Families Weekend. That is until this year.
Earlier this summer, I got a call from my grandmother saying that she wanted to come visit me at Vassar to “see where all that tuition money has been going.” Though I was thrilled by this prospect, I couldn’t help but question the logistics. After all, she is from the sunny, perpetually 75-degree Bay Area of Cali, and Poughkeepsie around this time of year is a sweltering, humid area and nowhere near any useful airports.
However, I soon learned that, though she loves me a lot, she would not venture just to the Hudson Valley for a weekend, but rather couple the visit with a trip she had been planning. Thus, while I finished up my week at Vassar, my Nana was hiking with a couple of her friends around Lake Como, just north of Milan and heading back west to the continental United States.
Hopefully that description is indicative of the active spirit of my grandmother. Even at her age, she is still exploring, shifting the definition of retirement from Jaguars and country clubs to hikes through northern Italy. Yes, she’s refined, but is still willing to hop on the gritty Metro North and come out to Poughkeepsie, which, it goes without saying, is a slight downgrade from Como.
Regardless of how down-to-earth she is, I wanted to spare her the “I might get murdered” vibe that comes with taking a taxi from the Poughkeepsie station to campus. Therefore, I borrowed a friend’s car and left the THs at the collegiate crack of dawn (9:30 a.m.) with the mist of the night before still covering the red Solo cups and Nattys from our neighbors’ rager.
The first part of our adventure involved a stop at Crafted Kup, a mediocre cappuccino and catching up on photos from Nana’s trip. In a gallant gesture, I covered our coffee and food, which really was quite the wrong call for my financial situation.I digress. I still find it absolutely hilarious that though she can text and is fully literate in the fantasy football app for our family’s league, my grandmother still gets audibly frustrated when her phone is in portrait lock mode.
What followed next was a tour of our campus, which helped me realize two things: The first is why they put Families Weekend this early in the year. The campus shows really well in September, possessing that ephemeral verdant look the Northeast always has, soon to be laid to waste. I won’t turn to a proverb from that HBO show everyone keeps crowing on about, but it must be said that winter is right around the corner.
The second thing I realized is that I know extremely little about the campus. Who was Maria Mitchell again? How the fuck do you pronounce Ely Hall? What even is political science? Independent of my ineptitudes, we had a fun time, both being weirded out by Vassar students and their fashion as the campus slowly woke up from its hungover stupor.
Once the bell tolled 12, and there really was no excuse for being asleep, it made sense to head over to my TH to show her that I don’t entirely live in squalor. I was slightly worried about this, though, since our house is—how do I put this?—not clean in any sense of the word.
For starters, we have a near life-size charcoal drawing of one our friends hanging on the wall of the common room. This might seem merely strange and a little obsessive, if it weren’t for the fact that this friend sometimes works as a nude model for the art students, and thus is rendered completely in the nude.
In addition to the definite naked man drawn above our sofa, there was the chance for in vivo nude housemates rising for a late shower. I think Nana recognized this, too. She’s no stranger to sharing space with dudes, having had two brothers, two sons and now four grandsons, but all that being said, she still asked me if I wanted to go forth as a sentinel before her: “I just remember visiting your dad or uncle at college and having to brace myself for what was waiting inside their rooms.”
Luckily, the carnage of our neighbours’ party hadn’t spread to our house, so save a few legally purchased beer bottles and bleary-eyed housemates, the house was presentable. Later, at a classy BurgerFi lunch (curse you Twisted Soul), she said, “I think you could take a shower there without shoes on,” which I will consider a win.
While this article may overall appear more sappy than funny, I would call that the transparency of who I am as a writer and person. I love my grandmother, and I was thrilled to show her campus before, as she put it, the “haze of graduation,” which, coincidentally, she told me that my parents had each been violently hungover for back in the day. I’ll be sure to bring that up with them when I see them next.