Thanks, Mom and Dad, for the valuable gift
During one of the last academic weeks, I opted to spend my Sunday entertaining myself instead of studying for my last final. I went to see King Lear at the American Repertory Theatre. It was a matinee performance and I innocently milled through the doors with, what I perceived to be, an older crowd. There were no families, mostly married couples.
What I expected was a relatively passive leisure-break, but instead the performance took me on a journey into self-realization about my own impending rite of passage, Commencement. And what I did not know, that reading the play beforehand would have told me, is that King Lear is an emotionally charged tale, making it one of the most difficult of Shakespeare's plays to perform and also one of the most fantastic to see.
Basically, the story of King Lear begins at a turning point. With no male heir, Lear decides to divide his kingdom between his three daughters and then abdicate his throne. Before doing so, Lear poses a loaded question to his daughters, "Which of you shall we say doth love us most?" Like Lear, my parents have, by ways of preparing me for higher education and paying for college, presented me a "dowry."
Fortunately, my MIT sheepskin at least guarantees more long-term success and security than any monetary compensation (i.e., $80,000) could provide. As I sat through the scene watching Lear wave the scrolled parchment deeds to his estate, I then suddenly remembered my father offering me, half in jest, a Camaro and free tuition to the local junior college, instead of MIT. Thank goodness I did not take the new car package, because I would have been surely shortchanged -- MIT is at least worth a Porsche.
Lear goes on to bait flattery from each of his daughters. As Lear basked like a puppy in the praises of his daughter, Goneril, I tried to remember the last time I expressed gratitude to my own parents, who have never even asked for thanks. In fact, as I thought about it further, I started to worry whether my parents knew that I am appreciative at all. My phone calls usually bring news of all-nighters and insecurities over grades, tests, rotten dates, etc. (Although the opposite would be absurd -- who but a freshman would call home and flatly let Mom and Dad know how much they love MIT?) I can only imagine that my parents have probably at one time or another felt guilt, as if they were subjecting their first-born to cruel torture. What they do not realize is that there is a certain machismo associated with problem sets and classes at MIT, and my conversations not only relay a perverse form of bragging but also happiness and gratitude, MIT style. Somehow truths like these are difficult to utter in plain fashion.
Thus I found myself infatuated throughout the opening scene with Cordelia, Lear's youngest daughter. Unlike her sisters, Cordelia chose to say nothing, and by doing so, delivered a controversial response to Lear's charge. She eventually explained herself to the bewildered Lear, "Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave my heart into my mouth. I love my Majesty according to my bond, no more, no less."
A Cordelia I am not, but her lines are particularly fitting; I too agree that words cannot do service to the love, the thanks, and the admiration I feel towards my parents at this turning point in life. As Commencement brings forth reunions, and families finally lay their eyes upon the place for which they ate potatoes and rice to afford, who can begrudge the unspoken thanks? An emotional journey in its own right, I hope that someday I can bequeath to my children such a gift as an MIT education.
Christina Boyle, a graduating senior in the Department of Economics, is a member of The Tech arts staff.