For the second and final day of our reunion, we kicked off the festivities at one of our favorite Tacoma restaurants, The Rock. They have a huge selection of wood fired pizzas not to mention a great range of drinks on tap. In the olden days, we would host celebrations here, consuming their infamous Bucket drink before heading next door to listen to live music at The Swiss. While a few people in our group indulged in some adult beverages, the majority of our requests centered around glasses of milk, extra ranch dressing, and as many napkins as they could spare. Times, they are a-changing.
After a delicious lunch, several meltdowns (most of them by my little angel), and multiple potty breaks for the kids and pregnant women, it was off to Parkland; the home of meth labs and Pacific Lutheran University. I’m not exaggerating when I say that our school was planted in the middle of America’s armpit. Parkland’s glory days, if it ever had any, have long since passed and what’s left is a sad, dismal, and very run down community. While on campus, also known as the Lute Dome, it’s easy to forget where you are thanks to some beautiful landscaping and architecture. However, as soon as you step foot off school property, the reality of your surroundings hits you like the aroma of Tacoma. I’m fairly confident that our little college rental house was adjacent to one of the more active meth labs in town. The cast of characters that came in and out of that little blue shack was almost unbelievable and their antics entertained us to no end. From knife throwing contests, fights over stolen belongings to a woman jumping on the back of a car then being driven down the street, there was never a dull moment. I even had a chance to chat with one of the residents who informed me his name was Cowboy Wayne just after offering me a box of Lucky Charms produced from the large trash bag he was carrying around. Seriously. I couldn’t make this up if I tried.
As we descended on campus, I couldn’t help but hang back and laugh at the scene in front of me. The stroller mafia had arrived. Tyler, ever the smart aleck, made sure to tell all the students we saw that “life sure comes at you fast.” They seemed unimpressed by his assessment while the rest of us laughed hysterically.
The Lute Dome had undergone a massive face lift since our heyday and we barely even recognized the updated facilities. Gone was the old cafeteria and in it’s place was a fancy new restaurant. We wondered what excuse the current students would have to explain their freshman 15 weight gain given such fancy meal options. We had always told ourselves they covered the lettuce in calories so the anorexic girls wouldn’t starve to death. And that’s why we’d gained weight despite eating salad with each meal. It obviously wasn’t the half gallon of ranch dressing on top, the cinnamon toast for dessert or the swirl cones we had to have in order to be fueled up for the walk back to our dorm!
Luckily, not everything had changed and the Chris Knutzen room was still intact. This was the infamous location of the freshman orientation dance where the stars aligned and our friendship was formed. Ashley treated us to her signature dance move in honor of being on such holy ground and then we did a poopy diaper change in the hallway because kids.
Next it was downstairs to the Scandinavian Cultural Center. I had never planned to attend PLU as it was so close to home and my family had been volunteering there for so many years that I felt I’d already explored all it had to offer. As luck would have it, my first few months at PLU coincided with a cultural center exhibit all about my family. So there were childhood photos of me wearing my Norwegian costume and playing my fiddle plastered all over the bottom floor of the University Commons building. It was great because any new friends I met at college could just go to the Center and see the most embarrassing photos of my childhood. Not wanting to miss a photo opportunity, the stroller mafia insisted I get a picture in front of the Scandinavian flags. We attempted a group shot as well with fairly vocal protests from Lena, Emmett and Eden.
Carlee and Chenda bonded over their roles as Diversity Center advocates and as Dino likes to remind us, this was also where Carlee tried to convince Chenda he was a bad choice for her. Aside from being one of the only male nursing students, Dino was also infamous for an incident involving a water fountain and some choice body parts. Luckily, Chenda didn’t listen to Carlee’s sage advice as the world would be missing two of the cutest girls you’ve ever seen – Kennedy and Reagan.
Ashley’s old workplace had long since been remodeled but we did reminisce fondly of her stellar work ethic in the Games Room. I’m not actually sure how she stayed employed as she tried to call in sick with some of the lamest excuses I’ve ever heard. In the absence of the game room, we snapped a photo of The Cave – home to various talent shows and campus parties including our first Halloween where Ashley dressed in hair-print hammer pants and toted around a giant boom box.
To finish up our reunion tour, we posed for photos in front of our old dorms and even attempted to break into Dino’s room. Ashley noticed the screen was loose and within minutes, had it removed despite Carlee’s protests. It was good to see some things hadn’t changed. And yet, things had changed as evidenced by this photo of our former wild child Cali girl breastfeeding her son in front of Foss Hall. I think I speak for the entire group when I say this is a sight none of us ever thought we’d see (love you, Smash!).
I am so thankful I got to see all these friends again and am still grinning at the thought of how far we’ve all come. Dino and Chenda, thank you so much for opening your home up to all of us. I don’t blame you for making Noah sleep outside in a tent because he is kinda hairy, has a faint scent to him and would probably have scared your children in the middle of the night. Carlee and Ty, I am sincerely hoping Logan grows up to be a modern dance enthusiast just so Tyler is forced to sit through more performances. Ashley, you’ve been blessed with the world’s most laid-back child and are doing an impeccable job at being his mama. It’s so cool to see you in this new grown up role but I’m also glad that old crazy Ash is still in there, too. Noah and Annie, I can’t wait to see what your little bun in the oven will look like. I have no doubts you’ll be great parents despite all our jokes at Noah’s expense. Also, Noah, way to land a hottie who’s also super athletic. I’m kinda impressed. And finally, Dave and Ashley, a big congrats on the birth of Harrison! I’m sure he will be well-loved by his big brother and sister not to mention be a brainiac with both of you as his parents. Love you all; time to start planning the next reunion!