One of the most stressful times of the year for a Williams student also happens to occur during what should be the most enjoyable and joyous. Whoever decided that finals period should happen during holiday season, I admit has a cruel sense of humor. Whether you celebrate Hanukah, Christmas or Kwanzaa, the holiday season in general normally evoke positive feelings in the best of us. At the same time, finals smother that. Have you ever seen Williams students during finals period? I have. Let me paint a picture for most of you. Sleep cycles change, become absurd, if they sleep at all. When they do sleep, many times it’s not even in their own bed. The libraries become hideouts, with people attempting to sleep in their at times. Not myself, but I have heard the stories. Diets change, nutrition gets thrown to the wayside and coffee consumption goes through the roof. We become swamped under the workload. Now you are faced with hungry, grouchy, overworked students. To top this all off, as if fate intends to torment us further, computers tend to want to crash more often at the times we really need them. Pair that with people who are trying to do it all, and do it all perfectly, and it’s a recipe for all kinds of unhappiness. Basically, the antithesis to what we should be feeling during the holiday season. However, there was one space that held that spirit of the holidays this time around, and you know what I am talking about if you were there. The most festive and family friendly space in all of campus; our very own Rice House.
Inside that two-story house was the one place a group of us could balance our sanity in the midst of finals. Inside those walls, we found the holidays and found our family away from home. Can you imagine how comforting it was to walk into a house and the first thing you hear is Luther Vandross, Babyface or Whitney Houston singing about Christmas? Just to follow that sound to find a small Christmas tree with lights there to greet you? Can you imagine the second flood TV room with lights and stockings above the fireplace? It was a small piece of home, and a reminder that there was more going on outside of papers, exams, projects and lab reports. But there is only so much that lights, music and decoration can do, beyond that were the people who consistently came to Rice together. While many others buried themselves in library basements, in carrels and the like, Rice became the home and study space for many. Just step into the second floor library anytime from 10am until past midnight the next morning. There would be laptops, slippers and books, and students scattered. Blue chairs pushed together so that some could take a study break and nap for a few hours, or until the next day in some instances. Walk into the blue boardroom on the second floor, and there would be a few people there studying as well. Enter the TV room, and along with the lights you might see people resting on the couch watching a show, or in the back at the table equipped with headphones or perhaps engaging in a biology study session looking like the Knights of the Roundtable preparing their next plans for attack on this exam. Have you heard of the Cave on the first floor? Many have not, but a few students found that and secluded themselves back in that room with pillows and blankets to get their work done. Or there was the first room to your left when entering the house, less frequently used than the other spaces, but still a favorite place. Throughout all of this, we kept our own stash of tea and hot chocolate, to guard us all from the cold outside, making use of our mugs, cups from dining halls and of course the teapot on the stove conveniently filled throughout the day. Sometimes a group would order Chinese food to be delivered. There was even the Rice House kickback where people gathered for wings, pizza and other snacks as a Reading Period study break. Individuals from several organizations, as well as just friends spread around the living room. But the best part of it all? Perhaps you never came to Rice at night.
Every night, no matter what, you were bound to find a group of people together to watch a movie, catch up with each other or just take a break from their work. There was the night where people gathered from around campus to play Spades. Others, and oftentimes myself, would raid the refrigerator and kitchen cabinets for whatever snacks we could find; chips and dip or salsa, fruit bowls or whatever. Every night people would gather from around campus and bring extra snacks with them, whether that be Rice Krispy treats or pizza that they would bring from their own snack bar points to share with others. Some would bring their work into the room, to study around friends. Others would be scattered around the house in anticipation of an early exam the next morning. There was Monday’s Fighting Temptations, complete with brownies and corn muffins. Then there was the favorite on Wednesday night, Love and Basketball. That night you can only imagine the amount of people that came in and out, the fun and laughter. Have you ever been to a Magic Johnson Theater in Harlem? Just as in there, the people you watch the movie with are just as important as what you are watching. Sometimes the funniest parts of the movie actually happen off-screen. Then there was Friday night where we watched Ted. Granted, not everyone could make it every night. I missed Thursday night myself. But no matter when you came, you were bound to find a new face, a new friend, be introduced to a new member of the Williams family. Within the walls of Rice House at nighttime you could relax in the company of great people, individuals finding solace and sanity in each other. Sometimes, there were some goodbyes as those going abroad were leaving, and there was no better place to share those goodbyes than with others, joking and talking amongst each other. Just as that night with Ted as people scattered around the couches, pulling in chairs, sitting on the floor while we brought cups of tea and hot chocolate to accompany nachos gone wrong. While the movie itself was side-splittingly funny, I assure you that it was for the company that people came. If you ever saw an especially happy person, in the midst of finals and wondered why there were so calm, it might have been that they found a piece of the holidays. Unlike Trey Songz who came to the club for the b#tches and the drinks, the two reasons people came to Rice were for the family and the friends. Yes, we were able to find a piece of home and the holidays on campus, even in the midst of finals.