Reunions and cousins

IMG_0824We had a full Memorial Day weekend. For me, the weekend started on Thursday when I drove to Princeton for my 15th reunion. Princeton’s Reunions culture is unique to the university and it is, um, special. You can go back for your 2nd or 37th reunion and there will be people there from your class. The “majors” (every 5 years) routinely draw close to 50 percent of the graduating class, plus their spouses and children. The party lasts for three days, with beer drinking in outdoor tents nightly, culminating in the “P-rade,” in which the alums all parade past each other in costume, waving signs about their year. And by year, I mean everything from 1936 (someone is still alive!) to 2016. I did not know about Reunions when I elected to go to Princeton, but my sophomore year I stayed on campus to work student crew for the 15th reunion. The whole thing blew my mind.

Anyway, I had chosen enjoying my 15th reunion as my Q2 goal in the “relationships” category. And I did! Partly it is that I felt in a good place to go to my reunion. It makes small talk easier to be working in the field I want to be working in, and to have a relatively functional family life.

But it wasn’t just that. I planned to have fun too. I met up with a good friend of mine on Thursday and we went out to dinner together, and then chatted with people and danced at the 5th reunion tent (more of a party!) until 12:30. Then we slept in the dorm room she had rented for the weekend. Sleeping in a dorm room single bed again after all these years was something! But I did all right. I think she slept until 10 — not me, I can’t seem to — so I went up to Nassau street for breakfast and then took off for home (it’s a 1-hour drive).

I worked for the day, went in the pool with the kids, and then when my husband got home, we left the kids with a babysitter and drove back out to Princeton for a second night of festivities. (My husband is a good sport — he wore his official class of 2001 T-shirt!) We talked with lots of people, and danced to an 80s cover band before returning home around midnight.

Saturday dawned too early. The baby got up at 6, so I was tired, and we had a whole 3rd day of Reunions festivities to get through. But I rallied. We drove back to Princeton with all four kids, and went to a chemistry lecture featuring explosions, dry ice, and other fun stuff. My niece got an award during this, which is why we went, but my 6-year-old in particular was into the fire and loud noises. We went over to the 15th Reunion tent for lunch, and so the kids could play in the bouncy house there, and eat candy and popcorn and play with other ’01 offspring. There are a lot of ’01 offspring! For whatever the Princeton Mom wants to write about how we’re doing it all wrong, my classmates are both fertile and accomplished.

Eventually it was time for the P-rade. Unfortunately, it was also 90 degrees out. Three out of four of my offspring were not all that excited about watching old people parade in front of each other in the heat (I would imagine that 3 out of 4 ’01 spouses felt likewise). So my husband took them over to my brother’s house to play. I stayed with my 9-year-old, who was fascinated by the whole thing. Like, seriously fascinated. He and I paraded with the 2001 crew, and he had a grand old time getting high-fived by the graduating seniors, and the various people who gave him candy along the route. He now wants to go to Princeton, which I am all for, except for the fact that they will be admitting approximately zero percent of applicants by then. I think the odds are reasonable I would not have gotten in now.

After, we went over to my brother’s to meet the rest of the crew, and then my husband and I went back to Reunions for one more night of drinking Kona in the tent before we collected the children around 9:45 and headed home where, blessedly, the baby slept until 7:30!

But oh no, we were not done with our weekend yet. We had not seen my husband’s brother and family, who live in Maryland, for a while. Their children are exactly matched in age with ours. So we drove there for the day, swam in their community pool, let the kids run wild in the basement, and then drove home in the rain from 7:15-9:30 P.M. or so.

IMG_0832Unfortunately, the baby was up at 5:30 A.M. on Memorial Day morning. I was dragging, but we filled the time by heading over to Wegman’s for a massive grocery shop (they are open 24 hours!). The larder was bare. $300 later it was not. Normally my little dude likes grocery shopping, and he was excited for about the first 2/3 of it, and then he began throwing stuff out of my cart. So there was a lot of racing through the aisles. I managed to get a run in, and then a nap afterward, and a swim in the pool. The weather forecast had said rain, but the rain was over by 8 A.M., so we cooked out at night. The 9-year-old had been pushing for the beach, but after all that running around all weekend I decided that was going to have to happen sometime in June. He and my husband and the other big kids went for a bike ride instead. The two boys are now big enough to pedal their own bikes around. My 4-year-old rode behind my husband on the tag-along, and was pedaling hard enough to be helpful! They are growing up. I am telling myself that as I am going crazy chasing after the toddler, who among other things took the 15 seconds I was going to the bathroom once today to run over to the side of the master bathroom tub, climb up, and attempt to leap into the bath. Good times.

In other news: Have you taken a full, 2-consecutive weeks vacation? I am writing a post for Fast Company on how (and why) to give it a whirl. I would love to include some stories of people who have done it! As always, you can email me at lvanderkam at yahoo dot com.

14 thoughts on “Reunions and cousins

  1. I was just reading How To Raise An Adult, which talks a lot about how it’s nigh onto impossible to get into Ivy League schools these days. It might as well be a 0% admission rate!

    We had a similar weather experience today: lots of rain forecast, but very little fell. It was a pleasant surprise!

    1. @Kristen – it was a pleasant surprise! As of last night it looked like it would be raining all day. It was raining during my early AM trip to the grocery store, but then it stopped. we even had sun for a bit!
      Yeah, the college admissions thing will be tough. I love that my son loves my alma mater but it would not be a good idea to get his heart set on it. That has nothing to do with how wonderful a candidate I think he will be – he will no doubt be more attractive than I was — it’s just the reality of where the numbers are.

  2. Fun to read about reunions and wegmans! I haven’t been to reunions since I graduated – I loved the fireworks!

  3. I haven’t been to a reunion of my own yet with kids (my 10th was held just weeks after Annabel was born, which in retrospect could have been fun but I was too new of a mom to see that!). I am looking forward to taking them both to #15 next year.

    I went to Williams and Josh to Duke undergrad so as much as we would love A&C to fall in love with our schools, I also really want them NOT to stress about getting in anywhere specific. I loved my college experience but I probably would have loved it anywhere!

  4. This is not just an issue in the US. My husband and I both went to Oxford in the UK and in many ways would love our daughters to go there but have had to try so hard not to put pressure on as it is so much more difficult to get in now than it was when we went (1982!!) although I’m not sure we have succeeded. Also fascinated by your question at the end about a 2 week holiday. I am a partner in a pretty busy English law firm doing commercial property and I always take a two week holiday in the summer. It is tough clearing my desk and dealing with what is there when I come back but really worth every moment of that effort.

    1. @KatherineB – I sometimes forget how many international readers I have. I have heard from a number of people this morning from countries where *everyone* takes at least 2 consecutive weeks off. I was viewing this from an American context where it’s a lot more rare. Doable, but rare!

  5. I’ve never done it, but I’ve had managers take 3-4 weeks (yes, entire months). I will note one that one has a phone he occasionally checks and the other is…not missed so much. 🙂 But really, there’s no reason not to take 2 weeks consecutively except that people sometimes don’t have the vacation time to take, particularly if they want more than one. I have two weeks that daycare closes (right before Labor Day and between Christmas & New Year’s), for instance. I can split with my husband, but I prefer to be home if possible. So that limits it. But really, work will survive.

    1. That was my thought–I’m always amazed at how long it takes to accrue a decent amount of vacation time, at corporations and in the public sector. I hit three weeks (15 days plus a floating holiday we can use any time) a couple of years ago, and it was amazing. We can carry them over each year but I spent the first several years barely taking 1 full week in case I needed the time. Now I can take roughly two one week vacations per year and have the rest for long weekends or random days off. Personally, I think more vacation time is something that could be offered fairly easily and at a lower cost than many other benefits and I’m almost certain it would improve productivity and morale.

  6. Why is it ALWAYS an 80s cover band?!

    Your back and forth method of Reunions sounds ideal with kids. The logistics of traveling solo with five kids caused me to sit this one out–I tried two years ago when I only had four and the kids loved it but I didn’t!

    1. @Catherine – a good question! You’d think we’d be more nostalgic for 90s covers. 80s were already retro when we were there…
      It’s funny to think how different my family will be in 5 years — at ages 14, 11, 9, and 6!

  7. I was wondering if I would qualify for the two week vacation question, I am an European living in US and I’ve always found ways to take long vacations, usually to go home and visit, in spite of the fact it is so far out of norm here. I don’t have kids and my husband doesn’t always come along , so in that way it’s not your typical vacation, but I’ve done three weeks several times and whole five weeks last year. A lot of people here in the Bay Area are from abroad and take extended vacations to visit families. Despite crazy workaholic culture I think most employers realize they just have to deal with it. Of course when I arrive in Europe friends ask me why I’m only there for three weeks since they get six weeks every year.

  8. My family just got back from a two week vacation. I had to go 8 months without a vacation (or even regular weekends off) to get it, but it was amazing. I did check and respond to emails and studied for 1-2 hours per day during my time off, but it was still glorious. My husband reports that his bosses kept trying to schedule important things during his time off, and he kept having to remind them he would be away. (“Can’t you just call into the meeting anyway?” “No, I will have no internet?” “Really?” “Yes.”). Fortunately he’s at a point in his career where he can get away with that, which was not the case a few years ago. I don’t expect this opportunity to present itself for another several years at least!

  9. I’m in middle management and I take 2 X 2-week holidays (sometimes 3 weeks over Christmas, depending on how many actual leave days I have to take) a year. It’s actually quite common in South Africa to take 2 – 3 weeks over Dec – Jan 🙂

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