Steve was finishing up his shower. He had worked up quite a sweat setting up with the guys. I had the percolator on low so he could have a hot cup of coffee when he finished. The kids were excitedly running around wanting to go outside with their friends. I was finishing up the wrapping of my two casseroles for the community table. My flaky fruit hand pies were perfect for picnics because they could be eaten by hand, hence the catchy name. I had experimented with a couple of casseroles, and settled on a Pizza Casserole. It could stand sitting out for a couple of hours and everyone liked pizza. There weren’t exactly prizes for the food, but there were always plenty of remarks on the food that didn’t taste good. Steve sat down at the kitchenette and I brought him a cup of coffee and some fried eggs and toast. I knew that he wouldn’t eat much after working outside so hard, but he could make up for it later at the party. Daisy looked so cute with her little white bow in her curls and she sidled up next to Steve for a hug. She gave him a sweet kiss on the cheek and asked him when they could go outside. Classic move. If mom won’t let you, try dad. I silently gave her points for understanding how to manipulate us at her age. Steve told Daisy to check with me. Good man. He knows the way we work. Team up against them and we might have a chance. Might.
We finally walked outside to the party, put the food on the table, greeted our neighbors, chatted with those who we rarely saw, and then took to our web-laced chairs that the guys had set up for our little clique. The smell from the charcoal grills was delicious and the men were enjoying their beers while tending the meat. They all had different methods to their process and liked to freely give advice and “constructive” criticism. The critique usually became more critical as the afternoon lingered on. I was sitting with Mags, Judy Anne, Gail, and our crew when I spotted Mr. Morgan walking around down by the children’s area. He was wearing off-white shorts and a flowery shirt. There was something about the shorts that just didn’t seem right. The others noticed that I was staring in that direction and turned to gaze also. Gail realized first that Mr. Morgan was wearing his boxers without shorts. Oh my gosh. We couldn’t help but giggle a little, some of us a little more than a little. Mags said that one of us had to go and handle the problem. I suggested that she go speak to Mr. Morgan. Mags got up, put down her drink, and headed toward the men. I saw her gather them together and then saw them all turn their heads toward Mr. Morgan. There was laughing and some shoulder shrugging. I could hear Mags tell them that they had to go and speak to him so he could go put some shorts on before he got too close to the kids. That got their attention. Dads like to protect their kids. The men huddled up and then one of them started to walk toward Mr. Morgan. I saw Steve casually approach Mr. Morgan and take his arm gently. They started to walk slowly toward his house. Mr. Morgan lived with his wife close to the end of the block. As they got to the house, they both entered and disappeared. Steve was officially “the handler” in my mind. He knew how to handle kids and old men. A few minutes later, Mr. Morgan reappeared with a strange pair of plaid shorts on with his flowery shirt. Steve was right behind him, arm in arm with Mrs. Morgan. He was walking them towards us. When they got to our circle, Steve asked if Mrs. Morgan could join our group and we pulled a chair up for her to sit. Steve excused himself and asked Mr. Morgan to join him and the guys at the grill. It was quiet for a long moment. Mrs. Morgan apologized for not having anything to bring to the picnic. Gail poured her a drink and she took it with a thanks and a smile. We continued to make conversation about the kids, the beauty of the day, and the great food. Mrs. Morgan finished her drink and asked if she could have a second. Gail refilled her aluminum glass. She thanked her and remarked on how good the drink tasted. I didn’t know if we should let her know that it had alcohol in it, but she remarked that she hadn’t enjoyed a drink in a long time due to Mr. Morgan. She shared quietly that he had been a lot to handle lately. He had become forgetful, had burned himself a couple of times lately in the kitchen, and had even wandered out into the back yard without knowing why. We were quiet while she spoke. I felt a little small that I hadn’t taken the time to speak to them more often. When the kids were little, I would walk along with them as they rode their trikes up and down the sidewalk. The Morgans were always sitting on their little porch waving and talking to us as we passed. Now that the kids didn’t need me to walk with them, I didn’t see them. In fact, I couldn’t remember the last time that I saw them out on the porch.
I asked Mrs. Morgan if she would join me while I got a plate of food. Although she gave me a reluctant look, I reassured her that there was always too much food and she was welcome to eat with us. We walked the tables and filled up our plates. Mrs. Morgan made pleasant comments about each casserole and dish. She took one of my fruit hand pies, a couple of cookies, and a piece of fudge along with small tastes of a few casseroles. She stopped me at the end of the table, looked at me closely, and thanked me with great sincerity. She told me that Steve had rescued Mr. Morgan and brought him back to the house while she was dressing for the day. They had no intentions of coming to the block party since she didn’t feel it was safe to bring Mr. Morgan. I told her I was sorry for not stopping to speak to her more often and told her that we would change that in the future. We sat down, ate our lunches, laughed, and told stories all afternoon.
From time to time, there were little scraped knees and bumped heads to kiss. The children had a wonderful time, the guys had a great time with each other, and our group had more fun than any other year. Mrs. Morgan entertained us with funny stories and we were lucky to have her join us. Later in the afternoon, Steve and I walked the Morgans back to their house so Mr. Morgan could take a nap. We promised to check on them more often and encouraged Mrs. Morgan to call at anytime for any reason. Scraped knees were easy to kiss away; bruised lives took a little more work.
We returned to the block party. A couple of the dads had some fireworks to set off when it was dark enough. Our group was a little quieter now that we had talked the day away. We’re really lucky to have our neighbors. We just need to be reminded that as we grow up and older, our needs change. As neighbors we spend time watching the comings and goings of each other, judging along the way. It wouldn’t hurt to do a little more checking along with the watching.