Burning Neighborhood

It’s the Monday morning of the Labor Day weekend, one of my favorite holidays of the year, right after Thanksgiving, and the block on which I live is quiet after the block party that brought out many of the neighbors and all of their children for a day of community and fun. I tried to upload some of the photos I took but nothing would work. Weak batteries, perhaps. In any event the memory lingers along with a heavy feeling in my stomach. Okay, so I ate a bit too much. It was that kind of party.

This is the eight year we’ve had the party and this was the best turnout yet. In the last year a number of new families moved onto the block and they were particularly anxious to meet their new neighbors. We got a permit from the city that allowed us to close off the street from 12 noon to 12 midnight and I’ll be dammed if I didn’t crawl into bed about 11:30 pm with the firepit still burning in the middle of the street. By then the kids had gone to bed but they ruled the asphalt all day with their wagons and little cars and bicycles and the basketball hoop that was smack where the median strip would be — if our street had a median strip.

What I noticed yesterday was how easy the party was to arrange. We’ve been pretty busy this year and we barely did any prep. A few weeks ago we printed a flyer and over a few days we went door to door to drop them off. We leafletted a bit more than our block. We have some neighbors around the corners who drop by. But mostly things just worked out. Three shade tents appeared. A second barbeque. Many tables. And more food than should have been consumed but so much of it was homemade and ever so good. One fellow made his chicken chow mein with fresh noodles. It is his signature dish. There was a separate table for desserts. That was my downfall.

We have a neigbor who is the musicator. He has done the tunes for the last eight years. It turns out that just about everybody has some special thing to contribute. My wife likes to make margaritas, and a workmate picked us fresh limes off his tree. There were sodas and wines and beers, and a trash and recycling can were put out for the refuse. And I can’t recall organizing a thing.

And this morning the street is quiet and clean. Some chairs and shade tents remain to be taken down and stored but they’re parked on lawns until the neighborhood wakes up and puts away the party until next year. I have some of the chow mein left over. I’ll heat it up and put it out for the final cleanup crew.

(I can’t recall how we got started. I think it was just a handful of families who formed the core group. Here are some how-to guides, from Today’s Parent, and eHow. But the best suggestion is to just knock on a few doors of the neighbors you know best. My bet is they’ll thank you for taking the lead and be eager to help.)