The Ruark Kids

Reunion Day


We mentioned a few days ago that we were at Mama’s 15th college reunion on Saturday. This turned out to be quite the day for Siena. As you might expect, reunion events are designed to extract from your wallet whatever money you haven’t already outright donated to the university. There are seminars, luncheons, bruncheons, BBQ’s, dances, dinners, “informal” get-togethers, places to stay on campus, you name it. Knowing full well our limited endurance, both physically these days and mentally for these types of events, we only signed up for the Saturday afternoon BBQ. This is the event that tends to draw the most kids, and we thought that would be best for Siena. (Five years ago we attended the brunch event, but that time we only had the dog to take with us.)

The BBQ started at 11 AM. We decided to try to leave around 12:45 with the hope and expectation that Siena would nap in the car, and she’d be all refreshed and ready to party. Her normal weekend naps start around 1:15, but we didn’t want to leave that late.

This plan proved somewhat disastrous for two reasons. First, as we later found at after arriving at the reunion event around 1:45, the BBQ was scheduled to end at 3 PM, giving us very little time to socialize and enjoy the famous (and quite tasty) Redbones BBQ. Second, Siena never did nap in the car. Or any other place that afternoon. This is one of the very few days in her still-brief life that she hasn’t napped in the middle of the day. So score one for Siena, because she was a real trooper: she never had a melt down, and she survived even through dinner.

Of Mama’s roommates’ kids (we didn’t seem to find or talk with anyone who wasn’t in the rooming group this time), Siena was among the youngest first kids. Which is to say, she was older than some younger siblings there but mostly younger than older or only children. She was, however, larger than some kids a year or two older than her. Her size continues to amaze us as we see her around other kids. We have such a biased sense of scale now that it has become impossible to judge the age of kids. “Nice toddler, how old, 18 months?” “No actually he’s two.”

I had Siena duty most of the time so Mama could socialize, but I was able to snap a few pictures. Here’s a shot of a subset of the rooming block, including Mama, Serena, Karen, and Holly:

Mama, Serena, Karen, and Holly

It turns out Mama chose wisely in selecting the BBQ. Not only did I make sure to eat some pulled pork, but Siena was able to enjoy a free drumstick. The ice cream kind, not the chicken, though she does enjoy that too (click on any of the pictures to see or download full/larger versions):

But far and away Siena spent the most time, and had the most fun (Mama speculated Siena had never had more fun in her life), on the inflated obstacle course. I took probably 30 pictures of Siena racing through this thing, which was essentially a long (30-40 feet) inflated rubber bouncy contraption with low walls to jump over or duck under. In every one of them, at least the few where Siena is running or rolling towards me instead of away from me, she has the most carefree, fantastic smile. Not the fake smile, but the real McCoy. Sadly, this one is one of those few that has her in action and includes her face:

Look at that hair!

Finally, after all this fun (all this was packed into a two hour window since we stayed after 3 PM), we decided instead of going straight home we would linger and stroll around Cambridge and try to survive until dinner time so we could go to one of our all-time favorite restaurants.

This is where Siena really demonstrated that she has previously untapped reserves. We walked from the Harvard Business School area across the river, around the School of Government, through Brattle Square and into Harvard Square. We paused there for a moment to watch two kids (teenagers? college kids? I don’t know any more) performing on home-made drum kits outside the T stop. Then we continued on down Mass Ave., running into another of Mama’s classmates who was waiting outside a shop, then down Clarendon Street, across the footbridge over the Charles, then meandering through the new (to us) apartments by the B School, and back to our car. Granted, we had Siena’s stroller and we carried her for a bit, but that is a long distance, she did walk a good stretch of it, and she hadn’t napped.

We knew we still had to get through dinner, but later that night after Siena had finally crashed into bed, we would realize how important it is to have days like these, and like the days we went to the Boston Aquarium or the beach, where we get out and do something special. Not only does it become a special treat for Siena that she talks about for days, but it serves to reaffirm that our girl, even at just 2.9 (officially a pre-schooler in 3 days!), has the capacity to extend her limits, push herself to be and do more than she has before. It’s so hard for us to lift ourselves out of the usual routine; it’s easy to stay at home and keep the schedule, play around the house, and yet we always find these excursions so immensely rewarding. The trick will be remembering this and forcing ourselves to get out when there are two instead of one.

Finally, dinner. Siena did have a major-league power nap in the 10 minutes from the parking lot to the restaurant. I was glad to be able to wake her up and not have her totally freak out from exhaustion while we were walking in. We were pretty confident that she’d perk up, because we had decided to go to Full Moon. Full Moon is a family-friendly place in Huron Village, in Cambridge, about 200 feet from where we lived for a few years earlier this decade. They serve moderately-high-end fare for grown-ups, but they have the usual assortment of kid food, like hot dogs, mac’n’cheese, grilled cheese, and the ever-present chicken fingers, for kids. We used to go there once a month or so before we had kids, and the waitresses would sometimes ask us why we were there if we didn’t have any kids.The place is often loud because of a play-area in the back with toys and books, where kids are encouraged to romp while waiting for the food to arrive…or for their parents to finish their meal after the kids have scarfed down theirs.

We told them, and ourselves, that we went because the food, atmosphere, and location were all ideal for our needs. The grilled sirloin with blue cheese butter on arugula, still on the menu after all these years (and what I had this time), was always a draw for me. Their salads are uniformly excellent (we had a grilled peach salad, yum!). Dessert was always an impossible choice between chocolate pudding cake and maple bread pudding. But I think that in some small way, at least for me, I also liked going there because whenever we went, I felt the promise or dream of someday taking my own kids there, to play and enjoy a good meal in one of the nicest neighborhoods in all of Cambridge. We had to move before we could start a family, and that meant Full Moon could not become a regular family joint for us, but it was a special moment for me to finally take my daughter.

Siena once again performed great. She got a third (fourth?) wind when she saw the train set they have in the play area. Fortunately she was so hungry that when we told her the food had arrived, she dropped her train piece and walked right back to the table. It took quite some effort to derail her focus long enough to get her to wash her hands. She ended up not eating very much, but she did enjoy the a la mode part of the chocolate pudding cake, which was fine by her parents, as that kept her busy and away from the cake part, which we thoroughly enjoyed.

Amazingly, or perhaps not because of the ice cream, Siena managed to stay awake the entire trip home. We gave her a quick bath, read two books before she passed out, and that was that. What a champ.

And that’s all to say nothing of the Whisker Walk we went on the next day, where there were hundreds of dogs, another inflated bouncy device, and cotton candy!


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