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Welcome to the Carnival!

It’s hard to believe it’s been almost two years since we dropped our oldest daughter Caroline off for her freshman year in college. Preparing for her departure was a mixture of excitement and emotions. Early in that week Savannah (who was headed to eighth grade) asked if she could have a “back to school” swim party that Friday night at our house for her friends. I told her that I absolutely could not think about a party that week. I explained that my sole focus needed to be making sure Caroline had everything she needed as we launched her into the world. Savannah persisted and I finally relented, deciding that it would be good to have something fun to focus on after a hard week. But there was ONE CONDITION. She was not to speak to me about the party until we were on the way home from the college drop off.

She agreed. She took care of the invites and made a menu (burgers on the grill). She even cleaned her room.

Thursday arrived and we packed more stuff than you can imagine (including all six of us) into the Suburban. As we drove towards Austin I checked my email only to discover I had a charge for $12 from evite. Evite invitations are free so I assumed there was a mistake. When I asked Savannah if she knew why I had been charged she told me that “only the first thirty are free”.

“Wait … what?”


After the first thirty invitations they charged $1/piece.

It was then I realized that Savannah had invited FORTY TWO people to our house the following evening for dinner. I had a momentary meltdown (freak out, whatever you want to call it) while I tried to think about how to feed/prepare for that many people. Then I remembered something similar I had done some forty years before.

Back then my best neighborhood friend, Kim, and I played together for hours on end. Summers were the best.  The days stretched out in front of us like canvases waiting to be painted.  I can still vividly remember lining our dolls up and playing “mean” school … because we thought anyone could be a nice teacher so we decided to be mean ones. We took our Barbie houses and made them into mansions by adding “rooms” made out of shoeboxes. Once we walked to the store and spoke only in pretend accents and wondered if other people thought we were actually from another country (it was hilarious!).  Kim patiently tried for years to teach me how to do a cartwheel and never once made me feel clumsy or made fun of me for never quite getting one of the most basic gymnastic moves of all.   For several years we bought Tootsie Pops and covered them with a Kleenex, turning them into ghosts that we later took to the Arkansas Children’s Hospital so they could hand them out to patients at Halloween. During this particular summer we decided to have a carnival to raise money for the hospital. We planned a magic show, came up with a game or two and then went around the neighborhood selling tickets to all our adult neighbors.

The only thing we didn’t do was tell my mom. This was a huge oversight and I can assure you it wasn’t intentional. I think we just got so excited about our plan that we forgot that one minor (MAJOR) detail. She found out about the carnival as she was standing at our kitchen sink looking out the window. She began to notice neighbors strolling into our backyard. When she came outside to see what was going on one of them told her they had bought a ticket for our carnival.

My mom said that in that moment she had a decision to make … get mad or go with it.

She went back in the house, opened our fridge and found that all she had to “serve” was a honeydew melon. (Apparently another thing Kim and I failed to think of was snacks when were planning our event).  My mom sliced up that honeydew melon,  stuck toothpicks in each bite and walked back outside.  With a smile on her face she said:

“Welcome to the carnival”.

And I think she meant it.  “Welcome”. “Come on in”. “So glad you came”.

I didn’t realize it at the time but in that very moment when my mom decided to “go with it” she turned it into a “get to” (read more about that here).  What a gift that was to me (and all our ticket holding neighbors!).

I’m sure she probably told me to ask her next time and explained to me why I needed (in no uncertain terms) to run things by her before selling tickets to our backyard … but that’s not what I remember about that day.  I remember that my mom decided to “go with it”.  She got to … and I’m so glad she did. What a lesson for me to learn!

So about that party Savannah planned?  It was tons of fun.  We got to make burger after burger and the girls even brought desserts to share. I hope every one of them felt welcomed and enjoyed being here.

And yesterday she told me that more kids are headed over Friday after they finish working in VBS.

There is only one thing to say … “welcome to the carnival”.