I grew up on a cul-de-sac. There were 10 houses and more kids than you could shake a stick at. And there was plenty of stick-shaking! In many ways it was an idyllic neighborhood to grow up in. That street is filled with so many wonderful memories. One of the brightest was the annual block party.
I don’t know exactly what year it started. All I know was I was knee-high to a grasshopper when I remember the first one. But somehow, a tradition was started where every year on the 4th of July, all the neighbors on our cul-de-sac came out to the middle of the street and had a grand ol’ block party.
There was sidewalk chalk and squirt guns. There were trips to backyards to swim in the pools. There were bike rides and ball games. And there were tables and tables of food!
Somewhere around dinner time the adults brought out trays and bowls of all the deliciousness that summer had to offer. And barbecue galore! We’d eat till the corn on the cob kernels were stuck all over our faces and the watermelon juice had made sticky pink rivers down our arms. Later there were red, white, and blue cupcakes and rice cereal treats and cookies. We were burning off so many calories running and swimming, I don’t think we ever got full.
Then when the sun started to sink behind the houses, we’d all pull the tables and chairs to the sides of the street. And the great big wheelbarrow of fireworks would come out! All the adults would pool their fireworks into one stash for a fantastic show.
First the kids would get to light sparklers and flowers and snakes. And then we’d all settle into lawn chairs or the still-warm sidewalk and watch the dads light up the fountains! They’d start with the smallest ones and then get bigger and bigger until the grand finale involved a group of the biggest ones all at once!
When our show was over, we’d sit back and watch the aerial fireworks from the high school–which we could just see over the top of our house. When the last blooms lit up the night sky, we’d drag our sticky, tired bodies home and fall fast asleep in our beds still wearing our swim suits.
It was marvelous.
It’s been more than 25 years since I lived on that cul-de-sac, but I still have dreams about those wonderful 4th of July block parties.
When we bought our home last year, it was the first time both my husband and I had owned our own home. We picked this particular neighborhood because it had the same feel of the neighborhoods we grew up in (part of that might be the fact that the homes were built in the 60s and 70s! But still.) With our roots firmly planted here, we wanted to re-create some of that magic we had growing up.
So this past spring, I made up a little flyer and we took it to 6 of the homes in our neighborhood where I knew there were families with children. I invited them to a “Popsicle Party” in our yard where we could just visit and get to know each other.
It was a success! We had 5 families come (one had a previous commitment) and we all sat and talked and played for hours! We had such a good time, that the subject came up of doing… a block party. (Cue the confetti!)
Two of the families who live across from each other volunteered to spearhead the event and sent invitations out to over 20 families. There was a terrific response! Everyone loved the idea of getting together.
On July 4th, we blocked off a part of the street, put up shade tents, tables and chairs and started the party at about 3:00 pm. Everyone had signed up to bring food and the salads and fruits and desserts began filling up the tables. Two barbecues came out and the hot dogs and sausages started grilling. One family even rented a jump house for the kids! (Which my boys didn’t leave for the majority of the party.)
And of course, I was so busy visiting, I didn’t take a single picture. Nope. It’s just in my memory bank.
But we had so much fun! We ate and we talked and we got to know the people who live in the houses so very close to ours. And it was wonderful.
We’ve decided to do it every year.
It really shouldn’t be surprising that we all jumped at the chance to have a block party. Our society has become so very isolating. People don’t sit around on their front lawns anymore. Many don’t ever get to know their neighbors. Often there is more connection on social media and through email and text than face-to-face interaction.
But as humans we crave connection. We need community. We are meant to be together.
My neighborhood is bringing back the block party! We’re rejecting the ideology of isolation. We want to be able to borrow that cup of sugar from next door! And have our kids play together. And sit on the front porches with each other and experience this amazing place we live… together.
How about you? Want to bring back the block party?