We received a last minute invitation to a birthday party. Our new neighbor across the street has a sweet little boy who is turning two. Brother Bear had run over to say “hi” when he saw them in the drive, and came back a moment later, bursting through the kitchen door.
“We’ve been invited to C’s birthday party!”
“When is it?”
“From one til three.”
Half joking, “Today?”
Not joking, “Uh, are you sure it’s today?”
It’s 12:15 and I’m cooking lunch so we can eat before we join up with our homeschool group for weekly Park Day at 1:00. And, we’ve got our niece, H, with us until my mother-in-law picks her up at 3:00.
Perhaps Brother Bear misunderstood. I need some sort of confirmation before I attempt the Herculean task (for me) of being flexible and changing plans in mid-stream. Reminding myself of the book I’ve been listening to, MindSet, which lauds the growth mindset over the fixed mindset, I ask Brother Bear to run back over and ask what we can bring.
“Anything we want. They’re having hamburgers and hotdogs.”
“Okay, go see what the other kids want to do, go to the park or go to the birthday party.” (As if there would be any question).
“We all want to go to the party.”
Okay, well the soup is done, but somehow I don’t imagine Italian Soup will be a compliment to hamburgers and hotdogs. And, I certainly cannot visit a new neighbor’s home for the first time, and for a party no less, and show up empty handed. What can I throw together quickly? Pasta salad.
So, while Brother Bear makes a nice birthday card, I throw together a pasta salad (with no mayo, because I’m out), then shower and dress, get together T-Bear’s Camy Kit, let Papa Bear know what’s going on, and dash across the street only about 15 minutes late for the party. Papa Bear, meanwhile, is running up to the store to grab a quick gift. Amazing what you can find at Ace Hardware.
We go around back to the yard where everyone is, and “everyone” is our neighbor S, two ladies with miscellaneous kids, and an older gentleman who is S’s father. Dad is sitting in a camp chair attempting to assemble a BBQ grill. “Do you know anything about putting one of these things together?” he asks me. So, I squat down in my skirt and try to help put the thing together. The assembly has been set up directly in full sun, so not only am I sweating in a very unladylike manner within moments (I had to excuse myself to rinse the sweat out of one burning eye), but each time I try to pick up a piece of hardware (all of which were black) I burn my fingers. But, we do manage to get it put together “enough” to function for the party. S dumps in the charcoal, but can’t find any matches in the many boxes which still dominate his family room and kitchen. I run across the street for matches, and also grab a bag of frozen hamburger patties, since the pile of handmade patties I saw in the kitchen were 1) adorably petite and 2) few in number. I know how much my Bears can eat.
In my absence, S finds some matches, but apparently the charcoal is old, and it won’t light. He’s already doused it with gasoline once, and it’s barely flickering. We back up all non-essential personnel to a safe distance, and he douses it again. Nice big fire for a few seconds, then a very anemic little dancing flame. A third douse, amazingly, does not do the trick. S is now getting desperate enough he’s going to run up to Dairy Queen and buy everyone lunch. I convince him to let me take the meat back to our house, grill it, and bring it back, knowing full well Papa Bear is on a conference call, the grill needs a new propane tank (which we have sitting in the garage but I’m not sure I know how to put on), and I can’t grill worth beans. Thankfully, Papa Bear had just wrapped up his call, and was free to do the grilling. He’d also already gotten the gift, wrapped it himself, and dropped it off at the party, so he was looking pretty heroic by this time. Since S had run out of paper cups, I brought back a handful of plastic kids’ restaurant cups from our kitchen, and reported the good news.
A blessedly short time later (T-Bear was now pretty late in getting fed, and was starting to feel it), Papa Bear made his entrance with the platter of meat, and we started feeding everyone. Not enough ketchup, so Papa Bear runs back home for more ketchup and relish. I managed to get T-Bear served up, we slipped into the powder room for a quick test and dose, then down to eating. Ooops, but where was the pasta salad I brought, I asked S. He’d put it in the freezer because his fridge was too full of other stuff.
So, everyone had lunch. S cut and served the cake with a fork, which apparently did not impair the flavor in any way. I gave T-Bear another dose to cover the cake. Gifts were opened, just in time for the first guest to leave. The remaining guest and I cleaned up as best we could, giving one another humoring looks over the state of this poor bachelor’s kitchen. The carpet cleaning guy showed up and started cleaning the carpets. I got a call from G, who was wrapping things up at the park and wanting to drop some stuff off for us, which reminded me that MIL was due at our house any moment (she was already there, wondering why the house was empty and the garage door was open).
Overall, I think we made a good impression on our new neighbor. He was, I’m pretty sure, grateful for the help, and I’m glad he let us help. The kids had fun. I met a nice lady whose name I don’t remember. It was time for me to sit in my comfy chair, put my feet up, and have a little glass of wine.