Happy Labor Day, and happy one-week-until-school-starts in New York City. I have totally bittersweet feelings about this. For us, the end of summer is a more drastic change than most, since pack up the backyard blissdom where we have spent July and August and make the trek back to our city apartment.
When people hear that we raise three kids in the city, they often ask me how big our apartment is. To which I always say: it’s kind of big for an apartment. But it’s pretty small for a house. And my kids can’t run because we have downstairs neighbors. And they can’t go outside unless I go with them. And we all get a lot less fresh air than we spent the summer getting used to.
Which is why our family has been a longtime supporter of The Fresh Air Fund, which gives inner-city kids the chance for a real summer vacation, one with crickets and s’mores and running through sprinklers. A vacation where you can go outside whenever you want- and find grass just outside your door.
This summer, we took it a step further: we hosted a Fresh Air Fund guest at our home for a week. Nothing went according to plan. And it was awesome.
When we picked up Marques last week, Hurricane Irene was bearing down on New York City and Long Island. So we headed west instead to my in-laws’ home, where we spent our first four “Fresh Air” days (two of them in the pouring rain). Then we headed back to Manhattan, sure that the power would be back on for Long Island at any moment. Uh ha ha ha ha. We ended up spending three days in our New York City apartment with our guest– not exactly the wide open spaces the Fresh Air Fund touts. Marques went back home without ever having gotten to the beach. (Too many downed power lines– our electricity never did come back on).
But we road tripped to greener pastures to swim, and play wiffle ball, and enjoy mid-afternoon ice cream sandwiches just because. Our friend enjoyed lots of firsts: ping pong, diving boards, bunk beds, life with three “siblings.” And when it rained, we had a dance party in my in-laws’ basement and Marques taught us all some “Billie Jean” choreography (he has some major moves).
What I never could have predicted is that I didn’t have to worry: Marques loved it all. The other thing I never expected was that life would be easier for me,and more fun for my kids, with him around. Marques made everything fun. He declared everything “the best ever.” We parted with big smiles (his) and tears (mine) and a solemn promise: to get our toes in the sand next year.
If you have a house with a backyard, and a little extra room at your dinner table, you can really show a Fresh Air Fund kid the time of his life. You don’t have to have a pool or beach access or live in the Taj Mahal. Wherever you live, you and your kids will probably have renewed awe of just how fortunate you really are. We’re so glad we had the experience. If you’ve ever given the Fresh Air Fund some thought- go for it.
Back to the wise-assin’ tomorrow. It’s a new school year! My pencils are sharpened!