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Quaker Matchbox Kids

11 mins read

-2Perhaps one of the more frightening aspects of the infamous Swat marriage is its potential to move off-campus.

A rumored one in six graduates wind up tying the knot with other alumni from the college. While students invariably nurture their own opinions as to the wisdom of uniting two Swatties in holy matrimony, the subject of Quaker Matchbox Kids (QMK) seems to be a special source of fascination.

What happens to the children of a Swarthmore couple? Some of them, inevitably, return to Swarthmore.

Paul Green
Dad: William Green, chemistry major, professor of engineering at MIT
Mom: Amanda Green, biology major, Massachusetts education department

The Story: William and Amanda’s first impressions of one another occurred without the tint of campus swoggles. They attended the same Pennsylvanian high school; however, with his short stature (at 5’4”, a “pipsqueak,” according to Paul) and insatiable intellect (he graduated two years early), William escaped Amanda’s notice – that is, until she arrived at Swarthmore during his junior year.

“My family joked he was keeping tabs on her until she graduated,” Paul said.

When Amanda arrived on campus in the fall of 1981, a note on the whiteboard outside her door – signed by William – welcomed her to the college. They soon started dating, and were married after William finished graduate school.

The Upbringing: Attending Swarthmore has given Paul the language and experience needed to better understand family dynamics. With an assortment of aunts and uncles who also graduated from Swarthmore, he now classifies his mom’s side of the family as “the ML side” and his dad’s as “the Danawell/Mertz side.”

Swat Stories: After Paul received his acceptance letter, his uncle — also a Swat alum — insisted on treating him to dinner and sharing advice from his own years at the college. While Paul remembers his pointers as being fairly typical — get enough sleep, exercise and eat well — an anecdote on an unfortunate housing assignment carried the potential to instill concern over first-year dorms.

While attending the College, Paul’s uncle inhabited one of the basement rooms in ML. Deemed uninhabitable now, the room then played host to a tenacious mold culture — some of which ended up growing on his roommate’s cheek as he slept. Revolted, the two roommates loaded their furniture into a car and drove it to Parrish Circle, depositing it in the Dean of Housing’s office.

“They told her, ‘until you find us a new room, we’re living here,’” Paul recounted with a smile. “And she said okay.”

Parental Places: While Paul’s parents seemed to keep relatively quiet about their time at the college, mentions of walking through the rose garden together repeatedly cropped up. According to Paul, it’s the one place on campus that leaves him feeling vicariously nostalgic.

Love Life: Paul sometimes feels that his parents’ early relationship is used as a lens to interpret his own love life.

“It’s scary as hell. You notice that when you meet someone freshmen year and you’re with them, there’s kind of like a family expectation that, oh, this might be the person you might get married to,” Paul said. “It’s a little intimidating.”

Kiera James
Dad: Frank James ’89, psychology major, stock market entrepreneur
Mom: Lena James ’89, English literature major, lawyer

The Story: A testament to the eternally bemoaned small size of campus, Frank and Lena met through a CD exchange between two shared friends. When a neighbor on her hall left to return the product in question, Lena tagged along, only to be introduced to Frank. They began dating shortly after, and married after Lena graduated from the college.

The Upbringing: There was never any doubt in Kiera’s mind that her socially awkward parents stood separate from her friends.’ Aside from her mother’s choice in bedtime stories (according to Kiera, Shakespeare became a staple by the age of six), an emphasis on education distinguished the James family from others she knew.

Lena and Frank decided to homeschool Kiera and her sister after being disappointed in the public education available in their hometown.When Kiera began studying Latin and Greek in sixth grade, Lena decorated the kitchen with roots and verbs, and surprised her daughter at breakfast with grammar quizzes.

For her 11th birthday, her sister requested a dictionary.

Swat Swag: Child-sized Swat sweatshirts featuring Parrish Hall offered Kiera a window into her father’s college experience from an early age.

Frank, who lived in a front-facing room in Parrish located somewhere near Kiera’s armpit, often used the location of his old abode as a tickling point on his daughter.

Love Life: “My mom sometimes jokes that she has to meet every single guy I’ve met at Swarthmore, because you never know,” Kiera laughed.

Growing up, Kiera admits that he perception of the Quaker Matchbox may have been skewed. Her parents stay in touch with three other Swarthmore couples they attended school with. In addition to her nuclear family, her grandparents are a Quaker matchbox couple; assorted aunts, uncles and cousins also attended the college. Some succeeded in finding love; others did not.

Being at the school has led to the realization that while the Quaker Matchbox works for some, it’s not as prevalent a phenomenon as Kiera may have initially believed. “I’m not sure it really happens here any more than anywhere else,” she shared.

Maria Elena:
Dad: Diego Covarrubias ‘89, math major, neuroradiologist

Mom: Jennifer Rawcliffe ’89, Spanish major,

Three Strikes, Not Out (The Meeting): Marriage might redeem Jennifer and Diego from the transgressions made in their initial courtship. Jennifer, the RA on Diego’s hall, previously dated his roommate – a triple wammy in terms of dating no-nos.

First Date: After attending a movie, Diego employed Jennifer in a sleeping bag search to furnish a bedroom he planned to use during the coming summer months.

“My mom thinks it’s hilarious, that on their first date she helped him find a sleeping bag,” Maria Elena said.

The Upbringing:
“One of major lessons I remember [from growing up] is always approach people in their own language,” Maria Elena shared. “[I think it] applies to more than words, vocabulary, or spoken language. [It’s more about] meeting people where they come from”

Although Maria Elena expressed uncertainty as to whether this feature stemmed from the Quaker Matchbox itself or Diego’s international status (he came to Swarthmore from Chile), the lesson percolated in the family’s many trips abroad. Maria Elena recalled a particular trip to Italy during which, upon realizing they were being treated like “dumb tourists,” the family began conversing in Spanish to defer the negative attention.

“My parents are the type to start talking to a waiter at a Mexican restaurant in Spanish,” Maria Elena said. “There’s always certain amount of biculturalism.”

The Choice: Swarthmore was not Maria Elena’s first choice — or first school. A transfer student from Oberlin, Maria Elena originally shied away from looking at Swarthmore out of a commitment to pursuing a career in professional music. After a change in heart, Swarthmore once more became an option; now, the inclusive social environment and stereotypical Swattie conversations make Maria Elena feel at home on campus.

“Being a transfer student, kids will say, ‘oh, Screw… wait, you don’t know what that is,’” Maria Elena said with a smile. “And I’ll be like, ‘yes I do!’ because I’ve been hearing about it my whole life.”

Although Diego and Lena did not overtly push a Swarthmore education at home, Maria Elena feels that the values shared by the couple may have played a role in the draw of the college.

“Something drew me here – at least nominally, Swarthmore has a heavy regard for dialogue, respecting others, thinking about other people,” Maria Elena reasoned. “Does [my attraction to] that come from being raised by two Swatties? Probably.”

Love Life: Maria Elena attributes Quaker Matchbox anxiety not to the school itself, but to the fact that Lena and Diego met during their undergraduate years.

“It’s more just knowing that my parents met in college and feeling pressure, that that could be happening now,” Maria Elena said. “It affects my expectations of where I should be.”

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