And double for HOSTING them – we just don’t do it. Oh sure, once in a while in Florida we will have a couple of neighbors over, and even THAT small affair involves much preparation and hustling about. But I don’t know if we have ever hosted a party in Virginia. Our house is never “right”: there are dust bunnies, there are dirty socks on the floor, the tub is dirty.But tonight we threw a party in Arlington. A SLIP ‘n’ SLIDE party. It was to be a celebration of the heat – of the summer. It has been over 100 degrees with the heat index the last few days. I wanted to bust out the Slip ‘n’ Slide the other night, but our houseguests ended up going out that evening and it seemed wrong to do it without them. So we planned just yesterday to have a PARTY tonight. I invited people via Facebook. I invited people via email. And for those neighbors who we did not have an electronic contact, I wrote and printed fun paper invites and we delivered them at midnight after ushering and seeing a play.
Today involved cupcake frosting, cookie baking, salad making, and general prep. Some of it was done in a swim suit! And it involved many trips from the BACK DOOR allll the way around the house to the front porch (the front door is sealed due to work being done on the dining room ceiling). We had no idea how many people would show up. I felt ready an hour early at 6 pm. Finally, at 6:58 pm, the daughter of a neighbor (aged 13) and her little nephew (around 6) came over. We had hand delivered a paper invite to the girl on the way to the play and she beamed when she read it. But now, here they were walking across the lawn and it was just THEM and ME. “Where is everyone?” she asked. I wanted to say the truth, “This might BE everyone….” but instead I said, “Well, you are the first to arrive! But I know the little girl next door is coming, and her friend, and 2 adults!”. Which was true – they had confirmed. But still – that didn’t seem like enough to make it a PARTY.But it was! Those two children went home and put on swim suits while I went and got the neighbor girl and her friend who had been prancing in their swimming suits over an hour asking, “Susan – can we come on the water slide now???”. And then there we were – Abdullah (the little boy), his aunt Fador (I think that is the 13 year old girl’s name), Julie, and Sanaa (both aged 6). And we SLID. Abdullah was not a good slider- he could NOT get the hang of it and it was quite funny. And each time he finished he had water in his little Indian eyes and would bat about like a blind man for a towel. Very sweet. Eventually a couple adults came to watch the kids slide, but no adults (except me) were sliding. Then David came back from picking up fried chicken and he slid. And Korin and Josh (adults) came and they slid. A big storm was blowing in and we were trying to get enough sliding in before that happened.
I had made a neon yellow sign that said “Slip ‘n Slide –join us!!”. And in the heat of this week and I really thought we could convince a jogger or biker to get on that water slide with us. But with the wind starting to blow and the temperature coming down to a manageable level, no one seemed serious about stopping to join the fun. I told the kids that anyone who convinced a stranger to stop and slide got a prize – which upped the ante and they yelled “fFee slide! No money!! Come on! I want a priiiize!!”. Two young men walked by and I thought I remembered them from buying something at our garage sale. So I tried to help out Nola, a little 4 year old neighbor girl who was taking her turn at the sign. I hollered “HEY! Come slide! It’s fun!! And this girl wins a PRIZE if a stranger stops and slides!!! Didn’t you buy something at our garage sale? Come ON – look how cute this girl is!! Don’t you want her to win a prize?? Don’t break her heart - just slide!!!”. It was fun to holler at them and I did tug at their heart strings – you could tell they felt bad for not sliding. But they were in pants and shirts, not swim suits or even running shorts. They said they would come back later. Yeah, right.BUT THEY DID! Shawn and Cyrus. They came back, and Shawn SLID. Fully clothed. Slid down that slip ‘n’ slide in his khaki pants and t shirt! Go Shawn – get down with your fearless self!! I invited them up to the porch for a drink and food. They sat and talked a couple hours. They were nice, one was very talkative (though a bit smelly). Turned out, they weren’t the kids I thought they were who shopped at our garage sale. I heard someone ask if they lived in the neighborhood and thought I caught a reply that they did, not on this street though.
Then, near the end of the night, when just a few people were left, someone else asked where they lived. And the response was cagey. Something like, “oh, here, there… Around. I try not to get tied down….”And I realized – they are homeless. The party that I feared may not be a success, was indeed a smashing success. It had attracted just the right men at just the right moment. And because of the volunteer work we had done with the homeless count last year, I felt comfortable asking, “So, do you live on the street?”. And that opener allowed them to be honest and to explain their situations. To not have to be cagey, but to tell us what they felt about this shelter system and that one. And that, “I could live on the streets indefinitely really!”. It didn’t seem so bad when explained by Cyrus.
And that is how two uninvited guests made me thankful that we threw a party. A welcoming party. A party where all who wanted to could slide.P.S.- four year old Nola thinks our dirty, harvest gold bathroom is “BEAUTIFUL!!!”. J