A Sewanee Parent’s perspective on Family Weekend

by Jeffrey Calnan

First, I need to establish that I am a self-described “Cranky Yankee.” More specifically, I am from Boston, where professional sports flourish and road rage was invented. Having just returned from Parents’ Weekend, I re-entered my world with a short moment of culture shock, as if the song was changed from Enya to AC/DC and the volume was turned way up. Being on the Mountain for Parents’ Weekend was one of the most relaxing three days I have ever had.

Now, going into Parents’ Weekend, my wife and I were a little anxious, like most parents I’m sure, about our little freshman who was off on his own and far away for the first time. How would he like the school? Would he be prepared academically? Would he get along with his roommate? Is he brushing his teeth? Does he make his bed in the morning? (We didn’t really care about the bed thing) But how would he like living in Tennessee? All these questions hovered conspicuously on our minds until we arrived on the Mountain and took our son to dinner (thumbs up for Fiesta Grill). At dinner we learned that everything was going very well, and as an added bonus, he was making his bed in the morning.

I’m a Yankee, so I’m a little edgy and a bit cynical, so I thought to myself, “Ok, what is McCardell putting in the water that makes this place so special?” Beautiful campus, Southern charm, perfect weather all combined to take me back to the days when I left Boston for the first time and did my Kibbutz as a demographic at Vanderbilt so very long ago. The pace slowed and my mind relaxed as I went with the flow and simply enjoyed being part of my son’s new world.

Of particular interest to me was attending a class with my son and seeing the energy of the professor and his interaction with the students. My family warned me not to, but I couldn’t help myself and did ask a question in class, which I hadn’t done since 1980. And even though the professor humored me, I was delighted to join in the classroom experience. Touring the campus took a while because we frequently stopped to meet and chat with friends and acquaintances of our son. It seems everywhere we went was another postcard view. The great weather didn’t hurt.

Although disappointing, the results of the football were not surprising, since I would think it’s very difficult to draw out the Gladiator rage necessary to dominate on the gridiron. True to form, no one seemed terribly concerned about the score, since the sideline social dominated off the gridiron. We were very entertained by the enthusiastic parade of the drinking clubs, but must add that if you’re going to wear kilts, you gotta have a piper in the band (like if you’re gonna play in Texas, ya gotta have fiddle…).

My wife had a chance to chat with the Vice Chancellor at the game; and I figured out why he’s always smiling. It’s because he is not at Middlebury anymore where you see their beautiful green quads for two weeks — the first and last weeks of school. Otherwise, it’s snow. My jaw hurt from chatting so much after the lacrosse reception, since we had been socializing all day. Everyone is happy and everyone is nice, which is very disorienting for a Yankee.

After our Sunday brunch, we took in the view at Morgan’s Steep. There was a tractor down in the valley that was plowing slowly across one of the fields kicking up a small cloud of dust. It was hypnotizing, as if I was looking at a painting with motion. Our visit came to a sad farewell, but we knew our son wanted his freedom back and we couldn’t blame him. But we left knowing that he had found a very special place and this comforted us as we traveled home. And now that we’re back, y’all should know it’s very cold outside.

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