Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Three Great Days

We had a great family weekend, the kind that makes the sleep you gave up when you decided to have kids seem even more worth it. It was also a perfect kick-off to the unofficial start of late spring/summer, which is probably my favorite time of year. And this year we ushered it in with three days full of laughter, fun and priceless little throwaway lines and observations from the girls that would collapse under the weight of context, but nonetheless provided a steady stream of smiles, chuckles and heartfelt amazement.

We did the divide-and-conquer thing on Saturday morning – Gwen took Ava to a neighborhood birthday party and Madison and I went to lacrosse practice. We reconvened at home early in the afternoon and, with the mercury bumping up against 90 degrees, decided to drive about an hour east to spend the rest of the day lounging in and around my parents’ pool. Our hosts were not even home, Mom and Dad are down in Atlantic City for the week, but the pool was still there, waiting for us. We enjoyed a few hours splashing around in the water, followed by a phenomenal pie from my childhood pizzeria, which we ate outside, and an early evening drive home.

We drove into the city Sunday morning to meet friends visiting from out of town for brunch at a place in Tribeca I’d never heard of called Bubby’s. Big, busy, loud and terrific. We had a memorable meal and visit with our friends and then stopped off at Citarella on the Upper East Side, our old neighborhood, to get some city-quality tuna steaks and wild salmon to export to our home in the suburbs. For some reason we have never been able to find seafood as good or fresh out here, so our rate of fresh fish consumption is more or less directly related to how frequently we find ourselves in Manhattan. We arrived back home with just enough time to off-load our precious cargo and take half a breath before again leaving for another neighborhood birthday party, one of approximately 652 we will attend this year. The good thing is that they are all so different, so distinct, such dynamic personal expressions of the guests of honor who are turning 1, or 2 or 5. Their little evolving personalities really come across, through the pizza and the piñatas, the face painting, spin art, cartoon character cakes and – for the really young ones – mid-party naps. Madison and Ava have taken to calling babies who haven’t celebrated their first birthday “zero,” as in, “they haven’t even turned one yet, Daddy, they were just born, they’re zero. Zero years.”

We got home from the party about 8:30 and collapsed went to bed. Woke up Monday morning and thankfully, mercifully, had absolutely no formal plans on the agenda. We hung around together, watched TV and did some craft down in the basement. The girls have this new game they like to play, they call it “school.” One of them – usually Madison – will play the teacher and occasionally Gwen or I will jump in and join Ava as a fellow “student.” It’s funny to watch Madison sit in a chair a foot or two in front of us and project her voice as if she was trying to control a room full of unruly kids. “OKAY… CLASS… LISTEN UP! WHO CAN TELL ME WHAT DAY IT IS? WHO WANTS TO READ A BOOK?” It’s actually a good game.

Shortly after noon we ventured forth in search of some outdoor furniture. After spending about a half hour inside this enormous store we settled on a set we liked, and after another 15 minutes or so found a salesman who was actually willing to help us. We had a little dialogue and agreed to move ahead. Everything was on track until the guy, about halfway through entering our information into the store computer, decided to tell us that the table we wanted was actually back-ordered until about mid-July. That seemed like a good chunk of the outdoor furniture season to surrender, before we'd even bought the set, and mid-July was just the prognosis they were willing to offer up while we were standing there in the store, credit card in outstretched hand. Who knows what unforeseen production or delivery snafus lay in wait after we’d transitioned into a plaintive voice on the phone or insistent e-mail message? In the end, it was a risk we weren’t willing to take, so we grudgingly chalked up a fruitless and frustrating hour and headed home.

We had promised the girls we would stop off at the mall to visit some junky little store that stocked a wide variety of clip-on earrings. Madison had heard about the place from a classmate. We wound up buying nine pairs that will be broken or forgotten within a week or so, but the in-the-moment excitement and smiles were worth it. Is there any more depressing place on earth than a shopping mall on a warm weather holiday? I'm not sure there is. We successfully navigated our way through the zombies and senior citizens, went home and spent the rest of the day running around the lawn, playing on the swing set, watching TV and just hanging out together. Took a nice walk around the neighborhood - we call it the neighborhood loop - and then fired up the tuna steaks on the grill. The girls loved them, and after dinner we faded into a bath, a board game and finally “movie night” before retiring to our respective beds about 9 p.m. Madison came wandering into our room at 7:21 a.m. yesterday morning asking to go downstairs – about an hour later than she and her sister had been greeting us for the last few days, a very welcome result of a good and active weekend.

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