One of the things I love about our neighbourhood is that there is a huge sense of community. It’s like living in a small town smack in the middle of Toronto. We had our 14th annual street party on Saturday. It was run by a couple of mums on the street until about 3 years ago when they decided to hand over the reins to myself and Muppet. It’s a lot of work but I love how everybody pulls together to make it happen year after year. What I love most though, is seeing how the next generation is taking ownership of the party and making it their own.
Ask any kid who has lived on our street for more than a year and they will tell you that the street party is their favourite day of the year (except maybe Christmas). It starts at noon with a hot dog BBQ for the kids, then off to the local park for the Olympics, which Muppet runs with the help of some other dads. There are obstacle courses and team tag games and the grand finale is a water balloon toss which quickly devolves into all out war between the kids and the adults. The kids then all continue the water fight in the wading pool while the adults pick up the shredded balloons. Back to the street for face painting, tattoos, crafts, paper airplane races, sidewalk chalk and bubbles. The street is blocked from traffic by two huge cloth banner strung between lamp posts. The first banner was made 14 years ago by the kids who lived here then, the second made 3 years ago by the next generation, covered in with designs, names, and hand prints.
Once the kids are suitably adorned, we have a parade up and down the street, followed by a group photo. As I looked around this year though, I realized that there is a whole new dynamic on the street now. Those kids who were around for the inception of the party are teenagers now, some are off at university, and others are just ending high school. There is a whole new generation of kids around the age of my own and yet another group of babies who are 2 and under. There are now well over 50 kids on the street and the majority are under the age of 12.
There is a potluck dinner after the parade and then the kids all play while the adults sit and chat, have adult beverages, and get to know each other or catch up. I was thrilled this year by how many new neighbours came out to participate and I have never seen such a big crowd for the evening’s events. What thrilled me even more though was all of the kids and how this party has come to mean tradition and joy and community for them.
The kids stage an elaborate game of cops and robbers after dinner which was started all those years ago by the kids who are now teenagers. They taught the younger ones and played with them and now my kids teach those who are younger than them how it goes. Most of the teenagers still come to the party and they are now the ones who help run the Olympics and encourage the toddlers who are trying so hard to participate. They do face painting and adorn the little ones in temporary tattoos. This year, one of the teenaged boys was our official photographer and he took some lovely photos which he set to music and presented to us all after dinner as a little slide show. His friend has become our DJ, complete with a light show that had the kids busting a move for hours. We also now have a rock band, consisting of two of the 12-year-old boys. They set up their drum kit, plugged in an electric guitar and amp and treated us to some pretty awesome covers of Nirvana and AC/DC.
I feel so privileged to be able to watch all of these kids grow up together with such pride in their community. I love knowing that this is a place where they feel safe and happy, where there are so many adults they trust and look up to, where there are older kids who still love to be around and participate because they grew up here and loved it. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy to see my own kids embrace the little ones, the babies and toddlers, teach them what it means to live on this street. It is a gift that I never could have imagined when we bought this house almost 8 years ago and I will be forever grateful because this street has changed our lives for the better.