Thursday, August 04, 2011

More Blessed in Giving

When Kate asked us a couple of months ago if she could invite some of her friends she has made while living in Lancaster to come for the weekend of the music festival, Father Folk, we readily agreed.  We've not had the chance to become acquainted with her new friends, and spending a weekend with them here would be a great way to do just that.  Kate seemed to be on top of the details and planning, and she pledged with all the sincerity of her soul to manage the entire affair.

The invitation which she emailed went viral, and suddenly we began hearing things like:

"There might be between five and twenty-five people coming; but don't freak out, Mom."

"The K___'s, (four siblings, 20-somethings, from Virginia) have decided that this would be the perfect summer getaway for their whole family, but their parents aren't really "campers", so I told them they could use the guest room; but don't freak out, Mom"

"So what are you planning to cook for all the meals for everyone Mom?  Mom?  Stop freaking out, Mom!"

*Let me take a moment to tell you that when Kate admonishes me in her calmest and most reasonable voice not to "freak out", my blood pressure is affected...

We begged encouraged Kate to keep us apprised of the number of guests that we should expect, outdoor and/or indoor, and to actively participate in the rest of the planning, most especially for the meals.  In the meantime we tried to think of what else we needed to consider.  A heat wave was gripping our area, so we reserved one of the church tents to put in the backyard as a shelter for shade or even for rain, should it happen.  The basement was given some extra attention since the guest room is down there, and the rest of it has been in "rennovation limbo" for over a year.

The last weeks before The Event a number of circumstances for both Kate and us interfered with thorough planning, and so, three days prior to D-day Erin and I sat down and planned menus and shopping lists with Kate's firm assurance that we would most definitely have between five and seventeen people camping in the yard and a college professor and his wife may or may not be sleeping in our guest room.  We girded our loins and prepared for the unknown.

Kate arrived the day before her friends and worked valliantly, taking care of the final preparations at home such as sweeping and mopping, scrubbing bathrooms and vacuuming.  (With clean floors I can face any storm.)  Erin had spent a few days preparing candle-holders to hang around the big tent outside, made from random glassware that we had purchased for the occasion at Goodwill.  Once the tent was collected from the church we all turned out in the yard, all five of us, to erect a structure that usually takes 6 to 8 large men to set up.  Meatballs were prepared and the final shopping for fresh fruit and veggies was finished before the friends began arriving.

Five friends showed up in time for dinner Friday, and five more after breakfast Saturday.  Among the group were two newlyweds, another married couple with a brother-in-law and their brand-new baby sourdough starter, four siblings, a pair of girls who'd grown up next-door to one another, but no college professor and wife.  (If you're counting, there was some overlap among the above categories.)  They came to us from Lancaster, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Virginia, and the D.C. area.  All, save one, had been home educated; all had been reared in loving, Christian homes.

To record here everything that occurred over the weekend is neither possible nor my purpose.  For a brief sketch of what happened all weekend; they slept and ate at our home, with the exception of Saturday's lunch, which was packed in a cooler to take to Father Folk.  They hiked together down to the festival by way of a logging road discovered by Erin while Jim and I drove the coolers of food and beverage and their many musical instruments down in our car.  (While they didn't play for the festival audience, we are hoping they might put something together for next year.)  The sourdough starter was fed, changed, and burped.

Without exception, these kids, (I'm old enough to be Mother to most of them, and it's a term of endearment) were courteous, cheerful, funny, loving in word and deed, and quick to engage in conversation and song.  Kate is their friend and she had invited them, but not once were the rest of our family made to feel like "background people".  Their visible gratitude and willingness to help with any and every task were so refreshing. 

Being an "old fogey", I tend to aim for an earlier bedtime than the rest of the world.  Only once was my sleep disturbed, and that was by the strains of music being played and the songs they were singing in our backyard.  While it was indeed beautiful to hear, it was also 1:30 am, so I texted Erin and the sounds from our yard quickly grew silent.  Though I appreciated it, I figured the neighbors might not.  Theses kids were all "city mice", and our big backyard appears to be out in the middle of nowhere, despite the fact that we actually do have quite a few neighbors living relatively close.

Speaking of neighbors, it happens that what I was hearing was coming from more than our own guests.  A pair of boys who live across the street and down a bit had returned home early from their family's vacation and were having their own party.  Jim walked over to have a look, and he estimates that there were at least 75 kids in the yard and pool, and the evidence strongly suggested that there was drinking going on.  After our "campers" had settled down for the night they still heard plenty of noise from across the street way into the wee hours of the morning.

Sunday morning we brewed several pots of coffee and baked multitudes of muffins to encourage everyone to wake up and prepare to join us at church.  Jim, Erin, and I left early to insure that we could have a couple of pews together.  Kate and the first carload arrived shortly before service began and filed into the pew behind us.  After the first song or two, we realized that Kate had forgotten her baby brother left Isaac to guide the final carload of friends to church.  After a few minutes of panic Kate found them all sitting together in a back pew.  Isaac felt so comfortable with his new friends that he elected to sit with them rather than come find us.

Since they'd all been up so late I wondered if they had been able to stay awake for the whole service.  During lunch I learned that they indeed had stayed awake, as, without any prompting or leading questins from Jim or myself, they were all discussing the sermon.


After lunch the clean-up crew swung into action, clearing the table, putting away leftovers, loading the dishwasher and hand-washing the rest of the dishes.  All the while they were singing at the tops of their voices; Sound of Music, Prince of Eqypt, and Disney tunes, with more enthusiasm than ought to be possible after such a full weekend!  I'm sure I was sitting there grinning the whole time- they were truly a delight to behold.  What a perfect way to speed the chores along.

The afternoon was peacefully passed by reading, napping- indoors and out, and ping-pong in the basement.  Once the time came for everyone to pack up and go, they insisted on helping us break down the big top, and before we knew it, it was neatly packed away as well.  (whew!)  When with full hearts the goodbyes were said and the final group photo was taken, (and Vali's attempt to stow away in one of the cars thwarted) and they had all driven away, we found the dearest note in the kitchen thanking us for the hospitality we had extended to them for the weekend. 

But, oh, we received so much more than we gave.  We got not only a glimpse into the lives of these delightful kids, but we saw the sort of people with whom our daughter has chosen to surround herself.  She is living away from home and is no longer under our watchful care, and she seeks out such loving, kind, and godly friends- it takes my breath away. 

Furthermore, while there may have been some hair-raising moments in the planning, and some frustration over the "unknowns", in the end, our child chose to include us in planning a party weekend for her friends, instead of waiting for us to go out of town.  That in itself, is golden.

"My son, (daughter) if your heart is wise, my heart too will be glad." 
-Proverb 23: 15 

I can't wait for next year!

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