Family Weekend For Beginners And Veterans

Sophomore year they met my boyfriend’s parents for the first time, and we all went out to a romantic dinner at the Deerfield Inn.

Junior year my mom was on a Judie’s craze: we went there for lunch and dinner. But by that point I didn’t care that much about where we ate-I just wanted to catch them up on everything; we talked and talked.

And this year my parents decided to go to Turkey instead. While they swam in coves in the Mediterranean Sea and pored over rugs in Istanbul, I followed around two Amherst families-a freshman’s and a senior’s-to see what they were up to.

Senior Citizens

The next time your parents complain about sitting in traffic on the MassPike, just remind them that Margaret and Moses Rodriguez traveled all the way from Rochester, Minn., to see their daughter Esther, now a senior at Amherst.

This marked their second Family Weekend trip; they also came last year when Esther was a junior. But this time, the Rodriguezes got to dig a little deeper into their daughter’s life at the


They made their first venture into their daughter’s world on Friday, when they attended an open house by the neuroscience and biology departments.

“We had met some of her professors before,” Moses said. “But this year we really had the chance to talk [to them].”

Esther had just finished her comprehensive exams for her neuroscience major. “We got to see how the process takes place and how well Esther is doing,” said Moses. “Her professors were very nice people-very open.”

What was new to the Rodriguez’ Family Weekend experience this year was Esther’s creative effort to introduce her family to her roommates.

“We planned a picnic for our parents so they could meet each other,” she explained. But the cold weather forced them to move the picnic indoors to Esther’s A-Dorm common room.

Esther and her roommates have been friends since sophomore year and have lived together since last year. But Esther’s parents and her roommates got along like old friends. “We felt like we’d known them a long time,” Margaret said, “like they’d been friends for ages.”

On Saturday, the Rodriguezes went to President Gerety’s talk. “Here we are, senior parents,” Moses said. “It was interesting to hear what the underclassmen’s parents worried about-issues like housing and J-term.”

Moses said that if he could give any advice to freshman parents, it would be to “lay loose. Everything passes. All the so-called problems are actually pretty minor.”

Instead of worrying, Esther’s parents were more interested in discussing her daily life. “She doesn’t do anything for fun! She’s a total bump on a log!” her dad said with a laugh, then added, “I’m totally joking.”

Esther’s mother also commented on Amherst’s social scene. “I’m used to colleges and universities where it’s rowdy on the weekends,” she said. “It’s so quiet and clean here.”

As the father of a senior, Moses said he was disappointed that the weekend’s programming was so similar to last year’s. “I guess things work, and that’s why,” he said. Still, both he and Margaret agreed that they would have liked some new offerings.

Moses suggested the school plan different events catered to the parents of students in each class year. “It would be nice to know how the honors thesis works, for example,” he said.

But Esther’s parents said they were more interested in Esther’s true Amherst experience than in events that the College had to offer. “We would like to go to Valentine, but she won’t take us!” her father said. “She won’t take us to TAP, either. They should have TAP for parents.”

Getting Fresh

Andrew Gillette ’04 met his parents, who had just flown in from the San Francisco Bay Area, at the Lord Jeffrey Inn on Saturday morning-although they weren’t staying there.

“We didn’t know you had to make reservations years in advance,” said his mother, Pat.

During their first Family Weekend, the Gillettes were most curious about the layout of the campus. They had taken a tour when Andrew was looking at schools but took a second one on Saturday, led by their son. “I wanted to see what things look like,” Pat explained. “It’s really hard being so far away.”

Andrew’s parents said that they were happy to see the vibrancy of the campus. Pat was particularly struck by how friendly the campus seemed. “It’s totally alive with students,” she said. “Even the president smiled at us. He didn’t know who we were, but he recognized us as parents.”

The Gillettes spent some of Saturday afternoon at the football game. “We love football, but it was pretty darn cold,” Pat said.

They left after the first half of the game to buy Amherst paraphernalia. “We bought t-shirts, hats and went back for the ‘I’m an Amherst parent’ pins,” Pat said.

“They just can’t get enough!” said Andrew understandingly.

Andrew dined Saturday evening with his parents and brother Ryan, 14, at Sienna, a restaurant in Deerfield. “We figured he deserved a break from school food,” his mom explained.

The entire family turned in early Saturday night in order to wake up at the crack of dawn for Andrew’s crew race at Wesleyan Sunday morning.

Andrew’s brother, Ryan, in typical adolescent form, did not echo his parents’ enthusiasm for the weekend. “It was relatively dull for me,” he said. “It was not pertinent to me in any way, shape or form.” He explained that he has followed his brother through the same schools since they were toddlers and that “there is no way I am even considering Amherst.”

The Gillettes said they would have liked to see more of Andrew’s academic experience during their visit. “There are very impressive professors here and I would like to hear what they have to say,” said his father, Dane.

“I wanted to see the crazy poli sci professor!” Pat added, referring to Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science Austin Sarat.

Although both sets of parents decried the lack of exposure to professors, they seemed to care most about just being with their kids.

When it came time to take the Gillette family photo, the four gathered together in Andrew’s cramped two-room triple in James.

“Ryan, are you doing your weird smile?” his mother asked.

“Oh, you bet,” Ryan said.