Today, we dressed the kids up in snazzy holiday finery, braved the freezing rain, and headed into Cambridge to celebrate the end of a cherished tradition in our family. Upstairs on the Square, the eccentric zebra-themed upscale restaurant in Harvard Square is closing its doors next week, which brings an end to the annual family luncheon we hold there every June to celebrate our daughter’s Adoption Day.
Six and a half years ago, accompanied by about twenty of our closest friends and family, we showed up at the Boston Courthouse bright and early, the first case on the docket for a Family Court judge who too often had to preside over families being torn apart. That day though, he got to bring our family together. Our daughter was only sixteen months old, and she shined in her pink polka-dotted sun dress. After the brief ceremony and photos with the social workers, lawyers, and judge who made our family possible, we headed into Cambridge to celebrate. At Upstairs on the Square, we sipped champagne, and our daughter had her first taste of sparkling cider. The purple and pink walls and the zebra-print chair cushions seemed the perfect combination of girly audacity for this feisty young girl who had already taken over our lives in the best way possible.
Each year, we’ve returned as a family of four, and each year the staff remembers us and makes us feel incredibly special. Last summer, they even wrote “Happy Adoption Day” in chocolate sauce on her dessert plate. So when we heard last week that they would be closing their doors at the end of the year, we made a reservation to celebrate for the last time today. When we were getting ready to head out the door this morning, our daughter suddenly realized the finality of our lunch plans. “I want to keep celebrating my Adoption Day there Daddy,” she said, and when I assured her we would find somewhere new to celebrate, the look of understanding in her eyes as she hugged me and told me she loved me made me realize just how quickly these years have flown by. She’s growing up so quickly, and I’m so proud of her blossoming, complicated, healthy identity.
Seven years ago, I agonized over where we would celebrate the big day, a process I repeated two years later with our son (he has his own Adoption Day restaurant in Boston’s South End). It had to be the perfect restaurant: classy, but not too classy that they’d look down on us bringing young kids in; a delicious menu that would offer them variety as they grow up, but a kitchen staff that would still offer pasta with butter if necessary. Most of all, I struggled with selecting a restaurant that would still be there in ten, twenty, and thirty years. I had visions of us celebrating at the same spot for years to come, well into their adulthood.
Now that that isn’t really possible for our daughter though, I’m not as concerned as I thought I would be. Maybe I’m maturing along with my kids, secure in the understanding that our family is stronger than the dissolution of a celebratory tradition’s trappings.