Instant Karma Resolution Day 9 – Crowded House

Here’s how my 2010 Instant Karma Resolution works. Each day, I will randomly draw a name from my Friends List and make that person the subject of a status update where I will cull from memory some funny or interesting anecdote about the person. I’ll do this once a day until I work my way through the entire list. When you’ve been selected, I will also post this note to your wall and tag 5 of our mutual acquaintances in the hopes it will spur some nostalgic commentary.

Today I drew #9 – my friend Sarah Phillips.

A couple of years back, I wrote a piece for The Ed Zone where I espoused on the true nature of “Home”. At the time, Andi and I had just crested a major milestone when we performed the mental gymnastics necessary to deduce that we had lived in our Dudley abode longer than any other house or apartment as a couple, together. That article was inspired by the fact that she and I had engaged in a playful little argument over who had the exact date of our arrival correct. She had us pegged for one day in August 2004 and I had a different date. The point is, when you forget exactly how long you’ve lived in a place, that’s when you’re house truly becomes a home.

And a home is where you intend to wake each dawn until your end of days. Sure, life can throw you a curveball and relocate you to the Rhine but when you’ve found that home that really feels nice and snug, your true intention is to dig in your heels and stay safe and secure.

Well, that’s the precious position we’ve found ourselves in. We couldn’t have known this five years ago when we first packed up the wagon train and headed West for the new frontier – and we certainly wouldn’t have believed it in those fledgling weeks fraught with nostalgia for the comforting environs we had left behind – but as the sand drained from the hourglass and we began to peek from behind the curtains and finally take those first tentative steps out into the wide world of central Massachusetts, we began to meld with the community. And when those tendrils take hold and mere acquaintances become fast friends, you know you’ve made it home again.

And that’s where Sarah Phillips enters the equation.

I first met Sarah on New Year’s Eve 2009 – a little over a year ago. Sarah is a member of the local Mom’s Club, which really has proven to be a nice feeder league for my ever-expanding circle of friends. Oh sure, there are a handful that I would gladly trade away for prospects or at the very least, a six-pack of Winter Warmer (you hear that J. Tucker – you’re  officially on notice) but I knew within seconds of meeting them that Sarah and her awesome blossom of a family would make a fine acquisition to my team.

Of course, Andi already knew Sarah. Hell, between the Mom’s Club, the restaurant gig, the various theatrical displays and the school system – Andi knows everyone from the Mayor to the Principal to the local sleeper cell agent. That said, the Mom’s Club is stock full of varied personalities and their ranks are large so it’s not like you can just pick up and be friends with every single one of them – especially not the cougars, or so I’ve been sternly instructed.

But Andi and Sarah had forged a good friendship and Sarah saw fit to throw open the shutters and invite us over for a little fiesta, along with our good friends the Tuckers (Josh – You’ll be happy to know that the deal is off and I’m glad to have you back in the fold. The Douglas Dad’s Club wanted too much and I had to throw the kibosh on any potential transactions. I mean, seriously – You, Chris Domey, Bobby Phillips and a Dad to Be Named Later??? How could I compete next year? So welcome back, old buddy!!! You always were my favorite.)

Anyway, that innocent invitation would prove to be Sarah’s first mistake.

Oh sure, the evening began swimmingly. First the meet and greet which was capped with the ceremonial comparison of chrome domes. It was nice to meet Bobby and draft another soldier into my growing Band of Bald Brothers. It’s only a matter of time before we take it to the bourgeois elite – always taunting us with their luxurious flowing locks and thrilling tales of Supercuts.

Of course, we’re adults. It’s easy to get along when sharing common ground of the kitchen – where Sarah seemingly has a continuous playlist of piping hot chocolate chip cookies on repeat. I have yet to hang at their home without at least one delicious morsel finding purchase in my pie hole. And that, my dear readers, is how fast friends are made.

Kids, on the other hand, are a different story. Toss a plate of chocolate chip cookies in a room and voila – instant Middle East conflict. You have a better chance of wresting control of your homeland than you do of getting multiple kids surrounded by sweet treats to get along but miracle of miracles, Colin and Aria instantly began playing with Sarah’s kids as well as the Tucker brood.

With the children sequestered to the play room, the adults were free to mix and mingle in the kitchen, and within moments, we were beginning to form that precious bond that cements fast friends.

While we kept a close eye on the kids, sending a dispatch to that wild frontier on a well regulated schedule to insure the peace would continue, we were also playing it safe and trying not to disrupt them through too many parental visits and interruptions. Instead, we fell back upon the lessons learned from 24 and just listened intently to the traffic. As long as there was a constant stream of chatter but nothing indicating a direct threat or conspiracy, then we let these darlings be little and have fun. Little did we know, we had co-conspirators in our midst – and they had set their sights on the house.

As the night wore on, and the kids enjoyed a rare evening where the race of the minute hand meant nothing, not even bedtime, until those few ticks that separated 2008 from the brave new world of the future arrived – we occasionally marveled at how well they got along. And their connection freed our bonds as we were released a bit and able to relax and enjoy a few hours of good conversation and even better confections.

It’s funny how New Years Eve, the one night when you used to fight tooth and nail to insure you had major plans to send the year out right and welcome the new one with a flourish, suddenly becomes the night that you yearn to have a nice, quiet time among friends. Perhaps we live large often and early, leaving the latter years to truly reflect on the fun that can be found when surrounded by your nearest and dearest. I’m sure there will come a time when our kids have been kicked from the nest and we’ll want to head out to reclaim those faded nights of drunken debauchery but right now, here in the middle, I find it just as enjoyable to stay tethered close to home.

So, that put us in the perfect position for a good night.

Anyway, as the clock continued its tireless trek to rid us of another year on this orb, and bring forth the dawn of another day, the kids continued to play the night away. They were getting along so well that we stopped drawing straws to check on them and employed one of Stacey’s teen twins to keep up with the kids. And each time they went on their rounds, they returned singing the same sweet refrain – “No problems!!!”

Finally, the magic hour was upon us. We were minutes from midnight so we all gathered en masse in the living room to watch the ball begin its descent. It was the perfect cap to an all-ready great evening – one spent getting acquainted with new friends, reminiscing with old, all while surrounded tightly by our core family unit. That frigid weather outside may be frightful but inside, this evening had been completely delightful. And here, we stood, seconds away from our combined families’ and most importantly, our kids’, first New Year’s Eve enjoyed together.

3!

2!!

1!!!

Happy New Year!!!!

And then we make with the pre-requisite macking. High fives and hugs to the rest who haven’t got dibs on a lip lock. And then it’s time to hit the road. After all – it’s either waaaaaaaaaaaaaay past these kids bedtime or just about time for them to wake up.
And that’s when the full scope of Colin and Jared’s fiendish plan reveals itself.

Now, as I mentioned previously, each time someone went to check on the kids, they issued an all clear. Added to that was the constant report that the playroom was surprisingly tidy which always coaxed a huge sigh of relief from Sarah, who was due to depart with the whole Phillips’ family to her parents place in the White Mountains on the following morning. The last thing she needed was a full on napalm strike to eradicate any calamity that may befall the room.

Still, there was one nagging concern that remained rooted in our collective consciousness. How can six kids, fully immersed in play, not leave any tracks? It was a mystery so dense our brains couldn’t comprehend it so they simply looked away, repressing the thought and never allowing any of us to give voice to rational concern.

Well, it turns out that the room was so neat and tidy because our son Colin and Stacey’s boy, Jared, we’re in the process of procuring every play thing dotted throughout that room and relocating them to the interior of the little play house the Phillips constructed for their kids. This playhouse is similar to one of those little Fisher Price palaces you see planted in people’s back yards – standing about 3 feet high and 4 feet wide with a little kitchenette and some room to move. Think of an apartment in midtown Manhattan and you probably have a pretty good idea of the floor plan.

Anyway, they had managed to take literally every toy, doll, game, ball – essentially anything not nailed down – and just cram it into the confines of this tiny little cottage. It was one of those precarious situations where you didn’t even know how to begin cleaning it all up. If you opened the front door, we were apt to get swept under an avalanche of Legos. The contents were jammed so tightly that there was no way to pull things through the window. It was likely this would need to be done from the air, meaning a roof extraction or we could tunnel in but that would require dynamite and they were apparently fresh out.

Despite our constant offers to assist, Sarah and Bobby politely waved us off saying “We got this. Now get the f@$k out and don’t come back.” So, we scooped our little operative up and high tailed it, knowing full well that we’d never seem them again. Ah well, it was a nice friendship while it lasted.

On the way back home, I went through the entire gamut of reactions. Obviously, we were going to have to move. However, in this housing market, we were probably better off just letting Jared and Colin jam our house with debris and letting the town condemn it. So, with that option off the table it was time to be creative.

We could offer up a little eye for an eye scenario and just be thankful that Colin hadn’t flooded their second floor. So, I told Andi to call Sarah up and make the following pledge:

Some time in the next year, she and her family were free to come to our place and take as much stuff as they could from inside our real house and redecorate that play house in our back yard.

Goodbye oil burner. Adios wood stove. So long, LCD TV.

Sarah accepted the pact and we were all able to put it behind us. Now, I was just gonna’ have to figure out a way to continually make plans with the Phillips and then cancel at the last minute. I didn’t want them to think we were avoiding them so we’d have to make it all seem legitimate. I was even gonna’ have to invent a health crisis. Then that 600 pound pig that lives next door came wandering through my yard and inspiration hit. Swine Flu. It sounded so ridiculous, it had to be true. The media took the bait and the next thing you know, I went a full year without crossing paths with the fighting Phillips.

And here we sit, over one year later, with the statute of limitations fully expired on that promise. I’m thinking it’s about time we all got together, again.

Really raise the roof!!!