Saturday, August 17, 2013

The second annual pie buffet

Psalm 104:21-23 (NIV)

The lions roar for their prey
   and seek their food from God.
The sun rises, and they steal away;
   they return and lie down in their dens.
Then people go out to their work,
   to their labor until evening.
In my role as a copy editor, I refuse to allow an event to be branded the “first annual.” The preferred term is inaugural. There’s simply no way to be certain a new event will happen as scheduled the following year, no matter how dedicated the organizers may appear. Some sticklers won’t permit “second annual” either, going my an old rule of thumb stating you can’t call something annual until its happened three consecutive years.

Depending on how you slice it (pun very much intended, though not yet evident), tonight was either our small group’s fifth annual end-of-summer picnic or second annual pie buffet. It was 2009, I think Labor Day weekend, when several couples from church gathered in one family’s back yard for a cookout and to hatch plans for a small group. As it’s happened, we’ve gathered at the same house every August since. And last year, the hostess had the brilliant idea to suggest each couple bring a pie. Since it was such a delicious success, we happily signed on to repeat the feat tonight.

I made the two on the bottom. They are yummy.
This cookout has been one of the highlights of my summer since we moved here in 2009. Yet as much as I enjoy the gathering, the fellowship and the food, it also heralds the end of summer. Never has that been more evident than today, which we started by taking Jack to see his new school and classroom. In our district fourth- and fifth-graders have their own enormous building. I’d never been past the lobby, so it was a pretty impressive experience.

Jack, of course, wasn’t especially thrilled. He didn’t have a great attitude, either because he felt babied to have his mom and dad (and little brothers) help him find a classroom he surely could have located on his own, or simply because he can no longer avoid the fact school starts Wednesday.

Summer is almost over. We’re going to try to squeeze in a few more bits of fun in the rapidly shrinking interim, but we’ve also got to work on re-establishing routines. And not just bedtime, though that is the most significant. As a family we survive because of our routines — knowing exactly what to put in the lunch bag, where to put the next day’s clothes, what to look for in the backpack each afternoon — but we know we might have to try a few new things in August as opposed to what worked well in May.

And then of course there’s the realization that any routines we establish in the first few weeks of the school year are likely to be turned inside out when Baby Four arrives in early October. I think Jack is pretty well aware life is going to be pretty different for a while, though I doubt he totally remembers the full brunt of the newborn experience, even though Charlie is just two and a half. Max probably has much less of a memory of a baby in the house, though I’m convinced he’s not going to forget anything this time around.

But that crazy period will pass, as it always does, and then we’ll be back into our new normal. I’ll go to work, the boys will go to school and we’ll gather again in the evening, a family once again under the same roof. And then all six of us together will embark on what might be the longest period of stability we’ll ever have as a family. No more new babies, everyone here at home (no more moving, either) until Jack is done with high school nine years from now. I know we’re not promised any of that, but it’s interesting to think how stable the next nine years might be compared to the nine before.

And if each of those next eight or nine years includes an August night where we can get together with our dear friends, re-establish our support system for the coming year and — equally as important — load up a plate full of yummy pie slices, then I think I’ll be pretty content. Going to bed feeling blessed is indescribably wonderful.

A prayer for August 17:

Lord, thank you for good friends, good food and good fun. As our family gets ready to re-enter the regularity of a school year, please help us remember to be patient with one another during the adjustment. May our house be filled with your peace even as the temptation to give in to the hectic transition surges. Help me to lead by example with tolerance and a calm disposition. And may we all go our separate ways each morning remembering the family bond that ties us closely and the love you have for each of us. Amen.

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