Family Time

Last week, my grandmother called and invited our family to Thanksgiving dinner in New Haven. You know, one of those wholesome American gatherings filled with countless boisterous cousins, turkey, stuffing and great uncles named Walter. (Yes, I actually have a Great Uncle Walter.) There will probably be foliage and pumpkin pie. Norman Rockwell would be in heaven. Given the geographic distance between my family members, it is difficult to gather us all together for any event. As you might imagine then, having all of us together for Thanksgiving dinner is a pretty big deal. So I’m embarrassed to say that frustration was my first reaction to the news that I would be spending two days of my precious Thanksgiving break with my family. I have college visiting to finish. Once I’m done with that, I have to actually apply to those colleges. I have a one thousand page novel to read and analyze (sorry, Mr. Domina, I’m really behind). I have to sleep. I have to go see “High School Musical 3.” The last thing I need on my plate right now is a required family event that is sure to be busy, time-consuming and quite frankly, a bit stressful. But maybe my priorities are out of whack. When did Andover become more important than my family? My Yale supplement can’t drive me to school. My Bio homework won’t help me look for my keys when I’ve lost them. And no matter how many tours I lead for the Admissions Office, those tours can’t ask me how my day was when I come home exhausted and grumpy. Yet these are the things that I’ve moved to the top of my priority list. In my haste to be the kid who excels in all aspects of PA life and still has the energy to write Commentary articles like this one at 2 a.m. on a Saturday, my family has gotten the short end of the stick. Everyone talks about the “Andover Bubble,” but I’ve begun to think that maybe the better term would be the “Andover Straightjacket.” After all, bubbles are light and airy. More importantly, bubbles are easy to pop when you’re ready for them to disappear. Andover is not. Andover is hard; it is tiring, and most of all, it doesn’t just go away when you want it to—or at times when it should, like the rare opportunity to see your entire family. I don’t mean that I don’t love this place. But it’s certainly not Glinda’s pink bubble. I know more than one person who has told me that Andover is their home. That their dorm mates are their true family. That they dread going home over vacations, and that they impatiently count the summer days remaining until they can return to PA in September. But no matter how attached we may grow to this place or its people in our four short years here, we all too often forget why we’re here in the first place — because of our families. So come next Thursday, I’ll be in New Haven, stuffing myself with turkey, learning how to play bridge from my grandfather for the tenth time, trying not to think about a certain nearby college too much and telling the rest of my family what my life here at Andover is like. And what will I say? That it’s replacing them in my affections? That I spend an average of only three hours at home on school days? That I’d rather be filling out my Common App than answering their questions? I hope not, although I’m scared that I’ve let myself fall too far into that myopic, Phillips-centric mindset. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I think that this year, as corny as it sounds, I’m finally realizing what I have to be thankful for. Anabel Bacon is a four-year Senior and Senior Commentary Associate from Andover, Mass.