Saturday, July 13, 2013

Building Community, One Birthday Party at a Time

Our neighborhood gets friendlier every year.  And so do Elliot's birthday parties. For years I have wanted-wished-hoped-prayed to live in a community where I feel a sense of belonging and community support.  Having that kind of loving community is not something anyone can buy, no matter how much money you have.  Living in the "right" neighborhood for some people means belonging to a homeowner's association, surrounded by iron gates, manicured and landscaped lawns, and free access to a pool.  For us, living in the right neighborhood means that people make an effort to reach out and build lasting friendships.

Every year, we say we are not going to host another birthday party.

And every year, when June starts to feel like July, we start sending out invitations with only a vague idea of how it will be accomplished.

Today there are glowing embers of this year's celebration in my heart.  If anyone claims that we spoil our son with these annual parties, I would tell them that we celebrate for all of us. Our small family resides in a little pocket of a large city that sometimes makes us feel anonymous.  With no relatives less than eight hours away, we need our friends and neighbors.  A boy who is home educated and on his own much of the time needs the company of his friends.

We prayed for a break in the wet, soggy humid monsoon.  We used our power of intention to imagine a dry afternoon and evening.  We stayed positive and we were rewarded!!!

While the children filled our yard with a game of capture the flag, parents gathered under the strings of colorful lights and fell into easy conversation.  New friendships were made and old ones renewed.

Little girls squealed with delight near the bubble machine, and one four year old neighbor kept calling me "teacher."  Truthfully, her little face looking into mine and saying that name validated my childhood dream more than an official document or certificate. She kept saying "teacher, teacher...will you tell them to stop this game and start looking for fireflies?  Everyone should find some fireflies!"

Another little girl with a darling blonde ponytail asked me to help search for our cat.  I tried to explain that the kitty was afraid of all the children.  She was not put off on her search or dismayed by my explanation, stating in the sweetest little voice,  "but I'm nice!"

The magic of this celebration was amplified as we unplugged the colored lights and turned on the projector.  What could be more joy inducing than the sight and sounds of children gathered on a pile of blankets, eating bags of popcorn?  Friends who had previously said they would leave before the movie decided to stay a little longer.  I hardly focused on the actual movie, being fully engaged with the energy that filled this space in our lives.  As the movie came to an end with music, Elliot stood up and danced. His friends were shy and didn't join in, but Elliot will never sit still when there's an opportunity to dance. His free spirit and uninhibited engagement with life is what I admire most about my son.

In the morning, after sleeping for about six hours in the blanket fort, the four who spent the night gathered at the breakfast table.  I groggily made a batch of blueberry muffins.  While they ate in the next room, I asked "are the muffins yucky?"  They said "no."  Then Jack said "well, they are a little hard, but it's okay."
Then Elliot asked if anyone had seen the movie Bullet Proof Monk.  No one had.  Then seven year old Matthew said, "No, but I've seen bullet-proof muffins!"

We left some time for free play in the yard.  This is what they love best.

I am working hard, but happier than I have been in a long time!

Running to the deck...It's time for the movie to start!

This was magical.  I told Richard that building this outdoor theater and working to create this party was one of the most romantic and loving gifts I've ever received.

This is a canvas tarp!  Economical and so effective!

We watched Despicable Me. We can't wait to see the second one!

Elliot received a lot of handmade cards from his friends.  These touch my heart.  I plan to keep them all for him in a special book.

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