It's finally feeling like fall on the east coast. FINALLY.
Last weekend, on a balmy and humid day I hosted one of my favorite events of the year:
The second annual Pumpkin Fest!
I've mentioned this before...Otis and I live in what we like to call "the chateau in the ghetto." I used to be FREAKED THE HECK out by where he lived. When we first started dating I would dart in the house so fast, scared of "whoever" was out there to get me. The block was (and still is) covered in trash. People hung out on the front stoop. People drove by blaring LOUD blasting hip hop music, so loud that it would rattle our windows. Lots of kids played in the middle of the street, running in between parked cars without a blade of grass to be found.
Needless to say it was a world very foreign from my suburban upbringing and my old neighborhood here in philly which was high on the charm factor and big on the curb appeal side. But Otis lived down there, on the south side, in the "hood." At first it was really scary.
Since Otis and I first met, I swear up and down that our block has gotten better (read: no more drug dealers) And maybe I have changed, grown more accustomed to this kind of place. I certainly never spent time on a block like this before I fell in love with Otis and decided to move in with him.
But as you all know, I love pretty things. Our house is gorgeous and much of that has to do with Otis and the way that he rebuilt an old abandoned building and decorated it. A girl couldn't ask for more. This was all done before we ever met, btw.
When I moved in, I wanted flowers out front, just like my old house. So off to the nursery I went.
I bought the buckets, the potting soil, the pots, the shovels, the flowers, the food, a watering can and I hauled it out to the front of the house and started planting.
One of our neighbors saw what I was doing. "ooooh, you are BAH - RAVE! Those flowers are gonna be gone in a day. Those kids. They will pull them right outta those pots. You better watch out. They're not gonna last."
Her words worried me, but at the same time, I didn't care. i wanted to plant flowers damn't. Let those hooligan kids pick them out of the pots. I was going to try and make some pretty.
And then as I continued to begin to plant the most amazing thing happened. The kids on the block, who I barely had talked to, barely knew, stopped their pickup games and wandered over to our house, curious as to what I was doing.
Next thing you know, the most magical words entered my ears. "whatcha doin? Can we help?"
And together, seven of us planted the petunias. We made little holes in the dirt, took the little plants out of their small containers and gave them a new home in the big oaken barrel pots that I had bought.
They all wanted to help water the plants. Each kid took a turn, counting out how long they held the watering can that way everyone would get an equal chance to help. When all was said and done, on that beautiful spring day, we stood around the pots and did a flower dance, welcoming our new neighbors to the best block in the city...
The flowers flourished. no one ever messed with them. everyone enjoyed them. the compliments were endless and the kids were really really proud. At the end of the summer they helped me take the flowers out of the pots and plant my mums.
And would you believe it? Two years later watering my plants has almost turned into a hassel. Any time I step outside of my house with a watering can at least 4 kids ask if they can help me, fighting over who gets to go first, sneaking extra pours of water. What normally would take 2 minutes turns into 20 as whomever has run over to help takes time out to chat and we talk about school, and life, and high school musical. sometimes they shyly ask for "problems" and we work on math and multiplication tables and draw pictures.
It's been unbelievable and I just adore each and everyone of them. They're just an AWESOME bunch of kids. Super smart, super helpful, super kind....all in this gritty backdrop. Never what I ever would have expected 3 years ago.
As a special treat, for all of their help last summer. I decided to throw a pumpkin fest and bought every kid on the block their own pumpkin to decorate and draw and to keep through the season.
This years Pumpkin Fest was a big success. Thirteen kids sat around my stoop coloring and chatting and taking picture after picture after pircture. Next week we are going to carve the jack o'lanterns. The adult neighbors, they tell me, "ooooh. I wouldn't put those jack o'lanters out, they won't last. Someone will steal them. They'lll throw those pumpkins and smash them into smitereens"
But I think I might just want to chance it one more time....you never know how things might turn out.