Cambridge/Boston during Harvard Commencement

I feel like I over-celebrated graduation, if that’s possible. I got my diploma mailed to me in 2020. I graduated via a livestream on YouTube in 2021. And a few months ago, I finally got to return to Cambridge and participate in the day-long commencement activities in Harvard Yard!

We had a hotel booked well in advance. I guess maybe in October. But because my friend and writing partner was graduating with the class of 2022 and I was graduating with the classes of 2020/2021, our ceremonies were on different days. Throw in work, school, spouses, kids, and try to make travel plans line up and things can get a little messy. We ended up changing our hotel reservation (thanks, free cancellation!) so that our trip would overlap with my friend and her family’s visit to Cambridge just enough for us to have dinner together!

Tommy kept looking for less expensive hotel rates, but Cambridge is small, and when commencement rolls around, the hotel prices skyrocket. He found something a little better, and made a reservation there, but continued to look. We started looking at AirBnBs, too, but I assume that everybody in Cambridge wants to (1) be out of town during commencement and (2) make some money, too. There weren’t really any AirBnB options that were any better than a hotel. We did end up finding yet another hotel that was again, a little less expensive, (free cancellation again, whew!) but it would have meant that #KidGoodwin would have had to sleep on a rollaway bed.

We kept waiting for the cost of airfare to go down, or to land some last-minute deal, but that didn’t happen, either, so we just planned to drive to Cambridge. We figured even though we changed hotels and lengthened our stay, we’d save some by driving instead of flying.

And then it hit me… Why weren’t we looking at home exchanges in the area?

Long story short, we ended up making home exchange plans with a family from NYC to come to our house while we were gone. They gave us HomeExchange.com “guest points” in exchange for staying at our house. We then used the points that we had accumulated over time to stay at someone else’s house… right in Cambridge! One stop away from Harvard Yard!

Accommodations = free!

Drive = less than airfare, even with today’s gas prices!

Photoshoot in Harvard Yard = $125

The drive to Boston was long, but it wasn’t that bad. We left super early in the morning and stopped for lunch on the way. We arrived midafternoon, and unloaded our stuff. The apartment was lovely – a stylish little one bedroom with a loft upstairs for Jacob to sleep in. Then we parked our car in the garage and used public transportation the rest of the time to get around.

We headed to Harvard Yard for our family graduation photo shoot. Similar to when we plan a souvenir photo shoot on a vacation, we wanted to commemorate the occasion with some pictures. We were a little rushed getting there and meeting our photographer because Harvard Yard was locked up in most spots, but we finally made our way to an open gate, flashed my university ID, and found our photographer.

I chose to pose in my cap and gown on the Widener Library steps. (Along with many, many other graduates.) In just twenty or so minutes, the photographer captured great shots of me by myself and me with the boys. That was all I wanted! Just a few good pictures of us together at graduation!

From there, we went to meet my friend and her family at the Grafton Street Pub for dinner. I first went to the Grafton Street Pub with my writing classmates during our on-campus residency in 2019. The Grafton Street Pub moved from that location and is now where the restaurant Park used to be. I went there in 2018. We had a nice catch-up over dinner and drinks, but of course, it wasn’t enough time!

After dinner we took the kids to JP Licks and got ice cream. I got what I always get there – chocolate ice cream and Fruity Pebbles. Yum.

We said goodbye to my friend and her family, who were headed home super early the next morning, and then we went back to our little apartment to relax.

Knowing that the commencement activities on Sunday would be a day-long event, we decided that Saturday would be a day for Jacob to have some fun. We had lunch at The Barking Crab (amazing lobster roll! Get there early for seats!) and then walked along the harbor to the Boston Children’s Museum. Outside the museum is a big playground area so we sat down and let Jacob work out some energy climbing and sliding before heading into the museum.

The museum was a lot of fun. While we’ve seen and done some of the activities before (bubbles, race tracks, shadow figures) Jacob didn’t seem to mind. We followed him from room to room as he built, climbed, and explored.

On our way back to the apartment, it started pouring down rain. We ended up staying in for dinner that night and ordered burritos from Felipe’s. (IYKYK.) Then we went to bed early because I had to be up by five to get ready for commencement.

I started my day with some Starbucks and an Uber to Harvard Yard. I met up with a friend and we walked to the Museum of Natural History together, which is where our graduation procession began. When the bagpipes sounded, we started walking as a crowd into the Yard.

I was texting with Tommy throughout the morning and knew that he and Jacob had arrived in the Yard, but I had no idea how they’d ever spot me in the crowd. As luck would have it, we turned a corner, and I found my boys standing along a walkway in the front of the crowd. It made my day to see them.

The unviersity-wide ceremony was long, but it was quite an event. Tommy said that Jacob behaved amazingly throughout the whole thing. (Although I’m sure it was super boring for him.)

After the university ceremony, we walked back to the Museum of Natural History for our school ceremony. On the way, we passed by an ice cream truck! I hadn’t had anything to eat, except for coffee, so I bought myself a popsicle and told Tommy to look out for the truck on their way to the second ceremony.

The second ceremony went a little more quickly than the first, and I had gotten a tip from my friend who had graduated a few days before. She said that when her name was called, she left the stage and kept walking – right out of the ceremony – so that she could get to her husband and her little one, and they could all go back to their hotel and rest. After a long day of pomp and circumstance, that sounded like a plan to me. I spread the word to my group of friends and we all snuck out of our graduation ceremony once our names were called. A little silly? Maybe. But it was a LONG day.

One I’ll never forget.

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