I am home with four kids - two girls, two boys - ages 14, 6, 5 and 3 (and when I started this blog, just a little over two years ago, I had an infant, a 2yr old, 3yr old and 12yr old - feels like a lifetime ago, but it wasn't ;-). Until about four or five years ago, I worked in marketing. I have been and done many things - dancer, magazine "multi-tasker", advertising copywriter, gymnastics coach, resort town waitress, grad student, etc. Now my areas of expertise are different and diverse. I am savvy, efficient, patient and earthy (like it or not). I am a better cook, an Ok herb gardener, an impressive artist to my kids, an active and prolific photographer, a childrens' clothing stylist (in my head), a manager of all things "household" and a news enthusiast (from politics to celebrity). I am more cynical though less of a worrier / hypochondriac than I used to be. I am increasingly proud of what I do with kids, family and home, but I do still present myself as a "freelance writer".
OK - so... just as I said - scenes from a recent block party. Since we first moved here - when Olivia was a grade schooler, and I was pregnant with my Enzo - we have gone to this party (one year, we were just rolling in from vacation - many years I was pregnant and miserable if it was hot, but... we have always gone). I feel lucky to have been here to observe the 20 - 30 year + residents of this street playing Trivial Pursuit into the wee hours - grown kids participating when at one time they would have been in bed - adults laughing and nibbling at the leftover food or cookie trays while all the houses went dark and only citronella candles and street lights lit their game board (I still laugh, remembering one beloved neighbor, half of a younger childless couple we befriended for years, returning with his win - a giant cookie tray - having tried to drink beer with the street late night veterans :-) - I chatted with him wee hours - one of the years I was pregnant and unable to sleep). I happily remember the years my Olivia and her friend, Cecily, would organize the bike decorating - lay out sidewalk chalk for the younger kids - make an afternoon of it (one year, Cecily broke her arm, playing as kids do - only to return the next year, like a trooper, to participate). I remember one year playing Guitar Hero using a sheet that we hung as a projection screen on the neighbor's porch. Those were the old days, and they seemed to just end a year or so ago. Kinda sad.
So ... this year was different than all the others. Actually, like I said, the past few years have been different. One visible neighbor has died - another is away for the summer - many kids have left for college or moved out of their parents' homes - a number of people have moved out of the area and those who are new don't attend or only stop by for an hour or so - my daughter's pal and her family don't attend anymore, feeling like they don't know anyone, and.... in truth, in a couple of recent years, someone newer to the street would invite people that the rest of us didn't know that well - other people took over the bike parade, leaving the kids out, and... well - now it has all ended. Next year, I vow to take that upon myself. Don't want my boys disappointed again this year - no parade - no prizes. I have to admit - I do miss those who have moved away or are no longer here with us.
So ... despite all this ... I did have fun. I met new people - I watched Lil thoroughly enjoy herself (allowed to be in the street! the lights! the food! the doggies - or goggies, as she says ;-) - me and a few other parents threw together an impromptu bike parade. It was fine. I found myself, once again, by myself - hubby and Olivia had other unavoidable engagements and our friends turned in early (perhaps also not feelin' the new vibe this year ;-), so... it was just me and the little ones again. As I look back on my muddy boys - running from the "clubhouse" to their little trikes, which they would gleefully ride through all the eating and chatting adults - down our hilly street - laughing with the kids down the street or next door AND, as I reflect on me and Lil sitting on the curb, eating brownies and watermelon and dancing for our new friends (well... she did - not me ;-), I think it was, all in all, a good night. Maybe this is the new wave - a transition of sorts.
Often, when hubby and Olivia set off on one of their many successful social adventures, leaving Mommy, queen of the casseroles - conquerer of laundry and messy pull-up accidents - CEO of the Home ;-) - to fend for herself, I feel left out - like I am missing out - like I am left with nothing to do. This night, however, I loved walking the dim streets, misty rain on my face - I loved letting the kids eat whatever they wanted off the folding buffet table - I loved watching them enjoy themselves both with some new and old friends. And now.... a week or two later.... as I look back, I can see that I am the lucky one - I'm the one who had something important to do - I did not miss out. These moments - however imperfect - are life-affirming and very special. Odd, hands-free, messy, dinner al fresco time with my wild ones. Love it. And even this transition from the old traditions seems OK - and I feel lucky to have participated when we were the new people being welcomed into the fold. Maybe it is time for me to do the same with others. Hope I accomplished some of that this year :-).
In closing, I want you to look here. It is a sad story (stolen from Nienie's blog - my blog list), but... it provides an opportunity to check in on people who have experienced loss and who may need support now and then. Remember that life-affirming feeling I just described - remember those moments to cherish that, hopefully, popped into your head as I recounted a couple of mine? Well.... time to cash in....
And, speaking of neighborhoods... we watched Gran Torino last night (have I mentioned before that we are waaaay behind in movies? ;-). Pretty good. Sad. Happy. Life-affirming message - definitely.