Today is my 11th wedding anniversary and my husband is far away in France, so I accepted my friend's invitation to her block party. She lives up near O'Hare airport, and although she makes the trek to Hyde Park every day during the week for work, to me it's like driving to another country to go all the way up there. I really hate driving. But I knew once we got there, I'd enjoy spending the day with my friend and her family, and I was right. She has the kind of family that just feels like your own after you've spent a few hours together, and I know a good part of that is because of our shared faith and values.
Every year, the people on their block remove their cars, block the street with police barricades, and pull their kitchen tables out to the street. They set up snow cone machines and bean bag tosses and a raffle. They even rented those blow up castles that you can jump in. Later in the day, they had a dj and loud music from the 80's, and who knows what happened after the sun went down. (We had to leave before Nourit imploded...around 6:30.) Growing up in the country, and then spending the rest of my life in city apartments, I've never witnessed this complete, unabashed attempt at neighborly-ness in quite the same way.
Although I didn't get to know my friend's neighbors, I loved spending the day outside with my friend, losing track of my 2.5 year old in the sea of little kids playing, and seeing how independent she's become. Her constant refrain of "I'm gonna do it ALL BY MYSELF" gets a little trying sometimes, but I really love watching her enjoy herself without me from time to time. When we arrived, she immediately attached herself to 3 year old Jacob and played for hours without doing anything out of jealousy or possessiveness. When we walked down to the castle, she scrambled right in with all the bigger kids without even a look back at me. When I did catch her eye, she beamed and said, "This is fun!" I even went in to jump with her, and while she enjoyed having me there for a few minutes, she finally ordered me out of her domain with a "You go out now, mama!"
Today was a day for firsts - her first popsicle, her first ice-cream cone (she happily ate all the ice-cream off the top and then told me we had to take the rest home in it's cup holder. So I showed her how to take a bite out of it, and now she'll know what to do with ice-cream cones for the rest of her life. Can't say I didn't teach her anything!)
She was asleep by the time we returned home, slack faced and grimy, and even her efforts to do things "all by herself" were muted. As I put her to bed, she told me she loved me, Daddy, and Baby Avi. And now I imagine she is having sugar-induced dreams about jumping in castles, riding bicycles and being surrounded with people who love her.
I just noticed Avi is quiet. Can she really be asleep by herself in her crib???