Saturday, March 28, 2009

Come on over to my house!

One of the most interesting things to do is watch the faces of children. They are so transparent. And, being kids once ourselves, we can empathize with whatever they are feeling.

At a family gathering last year, I think something happened that favored Charlotte for some reason, and my daughter-in-law, Sarah, started laughing because she was watching Caroline’s expression at that moment. Sarah, who grew up with a younger brother, said she knew that face, and knew that she herself had sported that expression many times growing up.

At another time a few days ago, I didn’t see Caroline’s expression because I wasn’t there, but I wish I could have seen it. She had a good friend from school over to her house. It sounds like they had a great time, playing, dressing up, making pizza, etc. When the girl’s father came to pick her up, the girl didn’t want to leave. Here is how 5-year-old Caroline described it in her blog:
Once upon a time when I was five, my best friend Judy came over. The first thing we did was go into my closet and wear some costumes. I wore Big Bird, and Judy, my best friend, wore the bear costume - Bear in the Big Blue House. I loved that. We danced around and soon I wore Bear in the Big Blue House and Judy didn't wear any other costume.

Judy and I had lots of fun after that, Then we made pizzas. Then when the pizzas were finished, my mom put them in the oven. While we were waiting, we jumped in the bouncy house. Then Mama said, "Lunch time! Lunch is ready!" And Judy and I went up to have our pizzas. They were certainly yummy! And I loved them! And Judy did, too.

Then after lunch, we went sledding. After a few sleds, I was on my belly holding onto the handle bars of one sled. When I was almost to the bottom of the hill, my face slammed down onto the sled. One of my top teeth came very loose, and my gum was bleeding. It hurt really bad.

Then I went inside and had a popsicle. Judy did, too. Judy made me feel a lot better since she's my best friend. When Judy finished her popsicle, she wanted to go back outside again.

I said, "Okay, but I'm not going outside, but I'm not going outside, because I don't feel well enough to go outside."

Then Daddy said, "Why don't you go outside and watch?"

I said, "Okay, but I'm not sledding."

I went outside and watched for a while. Then my Daddy came outside and tried sleds on two way bigger hills. There were branches, and my Daddy almost got blind.

Just then, Judy's dad came in his truck. When the truck pulled in, Judy faced backward away from the truck and folded her arms across her chest.

Then when her Daddy said, "Come on, Judy!", Judy said, "I'm not leaving," still with her arms folded across her chest, but she had turned back facing her Daddy now.

"Yes you are," said Judy's dad, and they went on arguing back and forth, back and forth, until Judy went away. But Judy forgot her shoes. My Daddy waved went out and waved them at the truck. He brought them to the truck, and Judy was happy.

I imagine Caroline was so proud - proud of her mom, who helped them make pizza, proud of her dad, who went out sledding with them (even if the branches were out to get him), proud of her sister, proud of her house and her toys, and especially I can imagine a satisfied smile on her face when her friend didn’t want to go home.

There’s a certain vulnerability in having a friend visit your home, especially when you are younger. My sister Joy and I grew up in a very small ranch house, all four of us using one tiny bathroom, Joy and I shared a bedroom, and the kitchen was so small that it was crowded with two people in it. Our toys were limited. We realized that a lot of our friends’ families were financially a lot more well off than we were. One of my friends named Debbie lived in a very fancy house in a neighborhood built around a beautiful lake (with ducks!), and when she showed me her attic, it was full of board games - just like a toy store - all the games I’d seen advertised on TV but never owned. She had two sisters and each child had her own room. It was so much fun spending time at her house!

But do you know what? I had an ever greater time when she came over to my house. I was never embarrassed that most of my toys weren't brand-name, or that I shared a room with my sister. I was always proud of my parents, too. I always considered them to be interesting and entertaining in their own right, just different enough from other parents to make them special. Our home movies (which is another thing none of my friends had) show Debbie and me at the Mid South Fair, just two friends, no distinctions, having a blast with my sister and my parents.

Yes, it’s vulnerable when as a kid you invite someone into the most personal of all spaces, your home. You are giving them an opportunity to judge your taste in decoration, your fight against clutter, the size of your living area, your financial status, your neighborhood, the kind of food you eat and how it is prepared, and especially your parents and siblings. I still thank my parents today for the fact that I was always excited to have a friend come visit - because I thought I lived in the most awesome family in the world. If I had any part in creating that same atmosphere for our kids as they grew up, I am content. (You’ll have to understand I’m in a reminiscent mood, as my “baby” Matthew turns 26 years old today! Happy birthday, Matt!)

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