Thursday, November 27, 2014

Biggest Party Night of the Year - With Kids

Nothing can stop this family from having a good time
The night before Thanksgiving used to mean meeting friends in a swanky lounge downtown, or a local neighborhood pub, or a sweaty dance club. For a few years, when most of my friends had kids, but I didn't, I held on to this tradition, tried to rally my gang for a night out, unable to accept that things had changed. Now, three years into parenthood myself, I get it. I'm not getting a babysitter for Thanksgiving Eve. Not gonna happen. But as I contemplated the weekend arriving, I wanted to be with friends. My nights in sweaty clubs may be (mostly) on pause, but that doesn't mean I can't see friends. So I took matters into my own hands, brought the party to me.

What the biggest party night of the year looks like, with kids, is this:

Your husband for some reason decides to clean off the top of the fridge for the first time in 10 years, right before everyone arrives, leaving the whole house smelling like bleach. This makes you open the windows even though it's 25 degrees and snowing. He's still vacuuming when people are arriving, since "there will be babies crawling," and though you want to murder him, because who cares if the rug is dirty when the food isn't ready, you remember his mom telling you to never interrupt a man who is cleaning, and remind yourself that it's good to have a clean rug and a sweet husband.

Four other families with youngens come, arriving at 6 pm. You order pizza, cook up some veggies from the CSA, and French fries for the kids. The guests bring crudite with hummus, Greek salad and pumpkin pie. You feast, eating in shifts, some people standing. Parents are used to this. When Rhoda stands, you discover she was sitting on your son's stethoscope. She laughs and said she didn't even feel it. You love her for this.

Daniel, Jacob and Ruthie, ages 3, 3 and 5, eat quickly - only pizza and fries, obviously, and then go play in the living room. When Teddy, age 3 arrives, he joins them. The babies, Trixie, Tyler and Kieran, ages 7 to 12 months, join the fray. After dinner, parents sit on couches, sprawl on the floor, talk in pairs or triads. The moms sit in the dining room for a blessed fifteen minutes and talk about comedy dreams, while the dads manage the mayhem in the living room. A few times you look in the living room and shudder to see every scarf, glove and hat that you own strewn about, along with every lego, toy, musical instrument and book. Oh well, it is the biggest party night of the year.

At 8:15, Lauren starts to pack up baby Trixie, the youngest of the bunch, with the biggest eyes, and most adventurous palate (duck confit, yes please says baby Trixie.) The dads do a crazy cleanup sweep that you wouldn't believe if you hadn't witnessed it. Your living room is restored to order in five minutes. Babies are bundled into car seats, kids into winter clothes. Hugs and kisses are exchanged. Your little guy is jumping on the couch like a maniac, fueled not even by sugar, but by the sheer excitement of Thanksgiving Eve. He's shouting Happy Halloween! Happy Easter! Your husband puts him to bed as you begin cleaning up and cutting up the bread to make the stuffing for Thanksgiving dinner.

No alcohol was served, it was hardly swanky, but it was loud, and full of love, and connection. The only thing missing was dancing. Next year, I'm adding a dance party to the mix.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Elvis Has Possessed My Three Year Old

The King lives

A few months ago I asked my son what he wanted to watch on YouTube. Typical answers range from Elmo to Ingrid Michaelson (he's eclectic.) On that particular night he said, "Elvis." I assumed he has watched this with his dad, so I didn't think much of it, and gamely pulled up Elvis Aloha from Hawaii. Later when I mentioned it to Carl, he said, "Yeah, he asked me to watch Elvis the other night, and I assumed you had watched it with him before."

"You mean, this didn't come from you?"


We looked at each other, dumbfounded. Where, then, did our child get the idea to watch Elvis?

Whatever its genesis, my son loves the King. We have watched Elvis Aloha from Hawaii almost every day since then. I have shown Daniel other Elvis footage, the comeback concert in '68, when he's still svelte, dressed in black leather; the classic footage of him shaking his pelvis, causing uproar in 1956; we've even watched the tragic but beautiful Unchained Melody performance, just weeks before his death (at age 42!). But no, the boy is only interested in watching Elvis in Hawaii. Why? I can't really say.

The Hawaii concert makes me a little sad. Yes, he's still the King, but he's clearly high, and has begun his descent into his addiction. Yet he also has moments of clarity, charm, and talent to spare. He's not the man he was in the earlier performances, but vestiges of his prodigious gifts remain. Watching clips from the videos now, I'm struck by his lack of perfectionism, by the fact that he was still working, even in his addiction, until the very end, still offering his gifts to the world.

He may not have been sexy or even coherent all the time, but he was still singing. And my three year old loves it. Go figure.

Thanks. Elvis. You're still the King.

When I asked Daniel what Nalu should be for Halloween, he said, without hesitation, "A hunk of burning love."