Last summer, when I was in the midst of feeling like shit, this poor girl went around telling everyone we were having a festival in our backyard. She was desperate to be surrounded by anyone with life left in them, since her mother clearly had none.
She picked a date. She made invitations. She invited about 30 people. I entertained the notion for a few random moments — I desperately wanted to let her see it through — but eventually had to break the news that it just wasn't going to happen. Not only did I then feel like shit, I also felt like an asshole.
This year, I'm functioning on a scale much closer to, well, functional. So I decided to take the advice of a friend who is wiser than her years should allow. It was originally given before Christmas, when I was loathe to supply my children with another mound of presents in the absence of what really mattered: cousins, chaos, and memories.
“Write your own story.”
I’m sure those words have come to me in many forms from many people on many different occasions. But here's a funny thing about advice: it's only good when you're ready to take it. After all, taking good advice usually means doing a lot of hard work — either by yourself or, perhaps worse, through asking people for help. Horrors!
This particular chapter of the story involved organizing a block party to celebrate Neighbour Day, and also to make up for crushing my child's dreams. It sent me knocking on every door — even the scary ones — to get signatures for our permit application, chasing a neighbour down the street in my pyjamas, driving to the strange traffic sign graveyard to pick up road blocks from a short, round, grey-bearded dude named Walter or Wiley, and perhaps most challenging for me, purchasing hot dogs. Yes, I have an issue with nitrates. All I can say is, I’m working on it.
I had absolutely no clue how to put on a block party but, miraculously, it all came together. There was food, a ridiculously small bouncy castle (rented under the guise of it being “Large”), music, street hockey and, of course, a water fight. Children played past their bedtimes. Adults drank until past theirs.
The best part didn't happen until the next day. The doorbell rang. It rang again. I opened the door to see a five-year-old boy standing there, the grandson of the woman I chased in my pjs.
"Is she here," he asked, poking his head in the door. "Can she come out to play?" Clearly, he had forgotten her name. Or maybe he never even knew it. Kids don't seem to waste time with those kinds of formalities. I remember picking up E from bike camp and having her point out her new BFF, then drawing a blank when I asked for said BFF's name. Kids just want to play, and here was this new child asking mine to come out to do just that.
With that, the Neighbour Day chapter was officially written. Next on the list: summer adventures. Dear God, let it not be a cliff hanger.