Tapping a Renewable Resource in Your Neighborhood

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Like most people, our tendency will naturally be to hole up for an extended period of time this time of year, and have less and less contact with our neighbors or even fellow humans in general. Our house, being rather small, cramped, and frequently untidy, will often feel like a less than ideal place to entertain. Additionally, the prospect of entertaining an entire family with multiple children can seem daunting given the lack of space and also a dearth of toys and diversions compared to some households. Thus, the center of gravity trends toward the solitary unless we break out our anti-gravity boots and jet packs to push out.

25 feet from the back door is plenty, and the effort and planning can be minimal. Last night, to celebrate the first full day of spring, we enjoyed our 2nd annual Stone’s Throw Party. It is an incredible opportunity to enjoy life together, even in adversity. This winter has been a long one for everyone, and old Jack Frost didn’t disappoint yesterday. It snowed 8 inches of wet and heavy snow throughout the day, and didn’t stop until shortly before the party. Thus I was forced to shovel and build the structure of our bonfire immediately prior to the festivities. I feared not being able to get it lit, so we used plenty of scrap cedar, which readily takes to fire…

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I was worried about safety issues, given the deep snow in the yard. 10 kids playing in the yard after school took care of that, however, by packing it all down by all their frenetic activity. It seems such an event is possible in almost any weather, save rain. While it was pleasantly warm at around freezing this time around, last year the mercury had dipped below zero when we had at New Year’s Eve. Here’s a pic of some of the kids from last year’s since I didn’t get a good one of them this time. They were so active last night!

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The contrast with the fire pit was striking this time around compared to last year. Due to the snow depth it left a 2 foot deep crater this year, and looked like a small asteroid had pock marked the yard in a perfect circle roughly the diameter of a Christmas tree. Four families disposed of their Xmas trees this way, and the resulting flames and sparks were spectacular as the pyrotechnics soared 15+ feet into the air and induced a little bit of fear into all of us in our small yard.

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At an event like this we can easily have a dozen or so kids, so we limit the dance card to the immediate neighborhood, which includes peeps within literal stone’s throw of our house. If I can get throw a stone and hit their yard, they’re invited. This helps to keep planning and expectations to a minimum, which in turn means it can actually happen. Otherwise we tend to put such ideas off and not actually implement them.

The dozen or so kids here last night were incredibly active last night with boundless energy and reckless abandonment. Their favorite play land was the mound of snow that reached to the top of the six foot high fence in the back, and allowed them to climb over it and slide down into the unplowed alley like happy penguins. They also learned they could climb onto the neighbor’s garage roof from this same pile, which beckons the endless tension of letting them play and turning a blind eye to some risky activity versus my natural tendency to micro-manage the fun and spontaneity away.

As we wait for summer, I’m reminded of Monday nights and the cool refreshing goodness that the ice cream truck brings. The kids are so wild about it that all of us wind up paying double the cost for ice cream, while also waiting for hours (often after a normal bedtime) for the King of Creams truck to arrive around the corner with its catchy music that attracts children in a manner similar to methods employed by the Pied Piper. This year, instead of whining about the hours and hours of building anticipation from the kids, I think we’ll wheel our charcoal grill and picnic table to the front yard and try and make an event of it each week. We’ll often have 20 kids or more getting ice cream on our block, and the excitement rivals the Super Bowl for the kids. Seriously. Rather than fight the system we may as well make an event out of it, and enjoy ourselves methinks. With such expectations, living in a neighborhood can be fun and rewarding.

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