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Dinner Conversation: Friday on the Lawn

An Allandale resident shares her neighborhood's special tradition, one that's as much fun for the kids as it is for the adults

Friday on the Lawn

I’VE ALWAYS LIKED ALLANDALE, which is why we decided to raise our two girls, now ages 12 and 8, in this neighborhood. But my love affair with Allandale really began when my oldest daughter started kindergarten at Gullett Elementary. As the school song goes, “Gullett is a school like no other place.” It is a truly special community with kids, parents, and teachers forming bonds that last long after the kids have graduated. In fact, I’m betting these relationships last a lifetime.

Right away, we started hosting gatherings. As an only child raised by a divorced mother who always opened our home to every friend so that the “orphans,” as she called them, always had a place to go for the holidays, or just for a Saturday night dinner and laughs, I too made a habit of opening our home to anyone and everyone. And fortunately, I have a very supportive husband (who I think secretly also loves a full house), so it is okay that we have, for instance, 90 kids running around our house for three hours every Halloween, along with 90 adults trying their best to ignore their children and the obscene amounts of candy being inhaled.

We put on some bug spray, eat the Tacodeli queso and chips before the kids vaporize it, and laugh with friends until the fireflies come out.

But hosting big events like that a few times a year wasn’t enough. One beautiful Friday after school, when my neighbor and I were sitting outside on her front lawn, and another friend stopped to pick up her daughter, the three of us decided the kids’ playdate should continue so the moms could enjoy some wine. And so was born Friday on the Lawn. There’s no rhyme or reason to when these happen, although nice weather definitely encourages the gathering, as does the feeling amongst the adults that “it’s high time we all got together for a drink.” People bring a chair and something to share, such as a bottle of wine or, as the kids hope, something with sugar. And again, anyone and everyone is welcome.

Then, what I love best about the Gullett community springs into action: the first batch of parents come with their kiddos after picking them up from school; the rest of the family joins when after-school activities are done or the work week is over; neighbors out walking stop for a cocktail; new friends who received the invite bike over; teachers finish for the week and stop by, sometimes with their own kids, sometimes without them. Even after five days with our children, and dealing with the parents, the teachers at this school still want to spend time with us! And it all happens right on our front lawn, so all of Allandale witnesses the gathering, and they know they are welcome to join.

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We’ve kept Friday on the Lawn gatherings going since the first one in 2011, so the kids have grown up enjoying these old-school afternoons, running around outside, climbing trees, taking off their shoes to be barefoot in the grass, and sneaking extra cans of Sprite behind the potting shed in the backyard. Meanwhile, the adults sit back, raise a glass to surviving a week, or a month, or an entire school year. We put on some bug spray, eat the Tacodeli queso and chips before the kids vaporize it, and laugh with friends until the fireflies come out. Around dusk, we often realize we haven’t yet fed our children properly and we order some pizzas.

From late afternoon to early evening, people come and go as they please. And when it’s time to take off, I love that many of our friends can walk home or hop back on their bicycles. So spoiled are we, living in the amazing neighborhood community of Allandale, enjoying something as simple, but as rare, as a gathering like Friday on the Lawn. The oldest of our kids are finishing up Lamar Middle School now, getting ready to begin high school. But, they still come over, still sit in the grass on a Friday afternoon and still hope someone brought something with sugar.

Read more from the Neighborhoods Issue | June 2017