The little host with the most
It started two weeks ago, with a package of discount-store napkins.
It ended Monday, with Big Guy falling to his knees on the sidewalk, weeping bitterly.
But this is not a sad tale. It’s a story of a little boy who busted his butt to make something happen. And it’s a story of a mom falling in love with her son all over again.
The napkins were a moment of weakness that broke several rules. No. 1, don’t buy it if it’s not on the list. No. 2, buy cute paper goods only at Big Lots or at end-of-season sales.
But for some reason – probably my weakness for cute – I gave in when Big Guy wanted the fall-color napkins. “Go ahead,” I said. “We can have a party for autumn.”
We set the party for two Mondays out. We’d bake leaf-shaped cookies and make pumpkin ice cream. We'd paint a new tablecloth – “can we make the leaves fall off the trees, Mommy?” -- and build a pirate ship centerpiece. Seems Captain Hook has usurped soldier as the game of choice at school, at least for now.
Less than 24 hours before the party, though, Big Guy had a question.
“Mommy, how can it be a party if we don’t invite people?”
We’d been having “parties” all summer, just the guys and me, and that had been fine. But now he wanted to up the ante.
“Good point,” I said. “Who do you want to invite?”
He reeled off four names. “OK, we’ll invite them. But if you’re going to invite people over, you’re going to have to help.”
“Can we make pizza, too?” he asked.
The next day, I couldn’t have pried him off me with a crow bar. Every step I took, he was right there. I left the kitchen to answer the phone while we were making cookies, and by the time I got back, he’d cut out three, put them on the sheet and sprinkled them with sugar. “Look, Mommy! I can do it!” he said with a Cheshire cat grin.
He grabbed a scrap of dough and put it on the cookie sheet. “This looks like a monkey,” he said. “My friends are going to love this!” And I suppose it did look like a monkey, if Curious George had been decapitated. But if the boy says it’s a monkey, I’m seeing a monkey.
Cooking finished, it was clean-up time. He tackled the Thomas collection that had taken over the dining room, amid howls from Little Guy. “No, I have to pick it up. My friends are coming,” he lectured, snatching a train.
“I think we can let him have one to play with,” I said.
“OK. But only one.”
Next, he insisted he had to dust. He dragged boxes out to the garbage and refused help. “I’ll do it. I want to make things nice.” He even straightened the pillows on the couch.
It was then that I started to realize how much this meant to him. I had thought this was a cute little “let’s pretend” that would end with me doing most of the work.
To him, though, it was real. He had invited his friends over, so he tore through the house like Taz, cleaning here, tidying there. He’s seen me do this before many parties over the course of his four years. This time, he took the burden on himself.
It was a side I’d never seen, and it blew me away. This small, sweet child was working his tail off to “make things nice” for his friends. I was in awe, much as I was the first time I’d met this wondrous creature.
Just to prove that aliens hadn’t abducted him, though, he got bored with housework, went into the back yard, dug up some dirt and dumped it over Little Guy.
His friends came, and the next hour was a giant romp, from soccer to swing set to baseball. The pizza finally drew them in. The ice cream, complete with sprinkles Little Guy thinks are his and his alone, kept them there.
Darkness drew, and the party wound down. As Big Guy’s favorite cousin got ready to leave, he Velcroed himself to her. We thought he was kidding. But then, as she tried to walk and his limp body trailed across the carpet behind her, I saw tears.
“Honey, she has to leave. It’s a school day tomorrow,” I said as we finally made it out the door.
That’s when he dropped to the sidewalk and wept.
“My … party’s … over,” he sobbed.
“Oh, honey, we can have another one,” I said. “And I’ll come!” his cousin added.
“But … my … party’s … over,” he wailed.
I carried him into the house, where he cried for a good 10 minutes.
It was just a bit of post-party depression. He quickly recovered enough to eat three more pieces of pizza and two bowls of ice cream.
And to plan the next party, for early November. “We can put turkeys on the tablecloth,” he said. “I know how to make them with my hands.”
Copyright 2007 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.