It was our first neighborhood party. Not to say Shelburbia hasnt been a party all along. But the party has mostly been made up of 2nd graders banging on our door and running up and down the stairs like the herd of animals that they are.
This was the first full family party and I was excited.
The hosts were relocated from the Boston area and reminded me of home. Straight talking, outgoing, Patriots fans. The party was to watch the game. When Anne called to invite me she told me her menu: meatballs, lasagne, salad, munchies, and her guest list: two other families. I loved that we weren’t going into it blind. I double loved that we were going to watch the game. I triply loved that my kids could come and go as they pleased.
So I arrived without my clan who were out swapping hockey equipment for skateboards. I was the first guest. Their home was a month old, and gleamed like only a new home hosting its first party in a family with older kids can. The walls were pumpkin and the furniture comfortable. Everything was nice without being over the top. Except the TVs. Those were huge and all on. Perfect for football.
Then came my guys. Leo with his long hair, skinny jeans, and hand me down terry cloth knee length beach cover up. For the fourth time that week someone called him a girl. I knew what Oliver would be wearing because I had seen him this week. T shirt and sweatpants. Steve had indulged me with his Patriots t shirt. Watching them walk in I felt the pull of family, that deep gut connection that is neither good nor bad but present.
Leo hops up to the counter for the munchies. Oliver leans into the freshly painted wall. He drags his cheek and both hands against it.
Is he hiding? Seeing with his hands? Is it his version of pissing on new territory. Or is it like the joyous run down the empty hallway.
Whatever it is it is not ideal for this brand new house. I try not to look at my hosts. I don’t imagine, given the level of order in the house, that they share my “patina of life” theory.
Before I can stop myself I am instructing him to take his hands off the walls.
He is deflated.
This is a perfect example of how we can bring our kids down. I allowed the potential reaction of my new neighbors to change my style of interacting with my kid. After a few minutes he asked if he could go home. I like to imagine it had nothing to do with my public chastisement. But who knows.
The rest of us stayed for hours. The Patriots were irredeemably bad, but the kids played touch football in the front yard and I watched Leo force a fumble and run it in for a touchdown.
As we were biking/walking home he asked me which football game I liked better. The live one, or the TV one. I could honestly say I liked his game better.
Maybe next time Oliver can play too. Assuming no one deflates him.
ps. If you haven’t seen the League of Denial documentary on concussions in football you ought to. This issue has me so torn between my love of the game, my feeling that we should all be allowed to choose our own fates, and the moral obligation schools have towards the health and safety of their students. Confusing stuff.