Sunday, July 11, 2010

She Loves The Cocktail Bell

There are a lot of people living in my house. Nine, in fact, when we’re operating at full capacity. So it seems strange to say that one living in such a busy place could ever feel a need for human interaction. There are humans everywhere. The young humans, however, outnumber the old ones at a rate of two to one. Because of this ratio, the adults are constantly in a world focused downward. The small people demand attention to their various activities and trails of debris, down there near floor level. When we do get a free moment, we tend to savor it quietly, engrossed in a book or doofing around online. Of course we speak to each other, but most conversations are interrupted by an urgent demand to find a toy or break up a squabble over a toy or apply a Band-Aid (usually in that order).

It was with a similar backdrop, several years ago, that RJA first introduced the concept of Cocktail Hour to our small social sphere. Originally intended as a brief, after-work stop-off for grown-ups heading to various activities on a Friday night, we quickly realized that cocktail hour was in fact the only activity that most of us parents had planned for a Friday night. The “hour” was purely conceptual, as most of us would stay as long as our hosts would have us. And, of course, our children. The founding principle of cocktail hour was that the kids would entertain themselves while the adults had some much-needed social time. And the amazing thing is that it almost always works. Aside from some category-five bedroom messes, kids ranging a decade in ages are able to play together without any major disasters.

Over the years, there’s been a core group of attendees, but also an ever-growing, ever-fluctuating cadre of friends looking for the same company that we crave. Some are married, some are single, some are even childless. At this point, what ties us all together on a Friday evening is closer to what created the original cocktail hour concept of the mid-century on which we jokingly based our own: human connection in an increasingly technical age. We spend so much of our time looking down – whether it’s at our kids or our iPhones – and not nearly enough time looking our friends in the eyes, talking about our lives in detail longer than a status message, hearing them literally laugh at loud.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

After The Boys Of Summer Have Gone

Somehow, while I was checking the Ann Taylor Loft sale page for clearance capris or reapplying industrial-strength bug spray, most of the summer slipped away. There are now three weeks left until Miss M starts her next school year as, of all things, a second-grader, thus ending my seasonal reprieve from lunch-packing and hour-long morning commutes. This summer has flown by even faster than usual. I got back from the beach, and then ten very quiet days afterward, the kids got back from beach part deux. We celebrated Mr. Baby’s birthday, and less than a week later, my parents were in town for the 4th of July. We enjoyed a great holiday weekend, highlighted by a baseball game featuring fireworks, a walk-off homerun, and paratroopers – quite possibly the most American three hours in history - and then suddenly, it was mid-July.

I’d like to think I can linger over the next few weeks, but they promise to be just as fleeting. I have personal writing deadlines to meet and a week without the kids at home, which are each individually the fastest ways to make hours pass and combined may tear a hole in the space-time continuum. Our summer will officially close the last weekend of the month with a trek to the ancestral homeland for Corn Capitol Days. Growing up, this trip was always the beginning-of-the-end of summer, but thanks to an insanely aggressive school calendar, our return flight will be on Miss M’s last day of vacation.

Fortunately, Miss M is much more excited about starting a new grade than she was a year ago, and Mr. Baby will be returning to the same daycare, which should make the transition a lot easier on all of us. Well, on them, anyway. During the summer, the full-on responsibility portion of my day shrinks from twelve hours to eight, and I cherish those four extra hours of relative freedom. I’m still not quite ready for the 5:50 a.m. alarm or the 5:15 p.m. pick-ups, and the resulting exhaustion that seeps over into the rest of my time. As a child, I thought parents were immune to this annual dread (and maybe as a full-time at-home mom, my mother was), but now I know that the groans heard when the back-to-school banner goes up at Target aren’t all coming from the peanut gallery.