Years ago, ten boys arrived for my son Jeff’s tenth birthday. They spent the afternoon breaking water balloons over each other’s pointy little heads and when the rain rolled in, they rushed inside to drip mud and dismantle our basement. One even discovered how to perforate a French door with a golf ball and a hockey stick. Ah, for the days when parents didn’t invite the entire western hemisphere to your birthday. When you were just grateful if they remembered your name.
Recently, a New York mother hired a ballet company to perform the Nutcracker Suite for her six-year-old and six friends. I can’t imagine this going well when my friends and I were six. But back to our party. After inhaling gourmet hot dogs, The Ten watched my son rip open the gifts: Lego, water guns, music by a group called “Angry People Playing Loudly.” After cake, they muttered, “We’re bored. Let’s watch movies.” I had seen this show before. My son had just returned from a birthday sleepover, which turned into an awake over.
“We stayed up ‘til four watching movies,” he said, “It was SO cool.”
I promised the kids great rewards if they loaded the dishwasher. But they pointed water pistols at me and demanded that we watch movies. “Watching TV kills brain cells,” I said. “I didn’t have TV. It’s why I’m so smart.”
“You didn’t watch movies!” they gasped. “What did you do?”
“Went outside. And loved it.”
They reflected on this and said, “Na. Let’s watch movies.”
Somehow I herded them outside and said, “Let’s play Pickle.” They hadn’t heard of it. Two of you don baseball gloves and stand on blankets fifty feet apart. One yells “Pop fly” and throws a tennis ball to the other. The rest try to get from one blanket to the other without being tagged. Three tags you’re out. Before long they were screaming. Panicking. And sweating like little piggies.
“This is the best party ever,” said one. Everyone agreed. “Better than movies?” I asked. “Yep. Better than movies.”
We live in an empty nest now, surrounded by memory marks. I still haven’t replaced the pane of glass in that French door. It’s one of many small reminders that life zings by, so celebrate what lasts.
“Teach us how short our lives really are, so that we may gain a heart of wisdom,” said Moses in Psalm 90:12.
I think the best parties are the simplest ones. Where laughter is heard and games played. Where children are loved, and adults take an interest. Parties where golf balls and hockey sticks are taken outside where they belong. Far, far from French doors.
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