|Welcome to the entrance of The Night Hike.|
We had an end-of-school party. We figured a few families would show up, a few drinks would be consumed, the children would scale a tree or two, someone would cry, and a child would need a Band-Aid before it was over. All of these things happened and then some.
Some 35 children showed and all of their parents — 75 people here all told. Our biggest party ever, a point of pride… and a little bit of terror. The kids all brought bikes, the adults all brought booze.
We live on 12 acres in the middle of nowhere. Our driveway is 1/3 of a mile long, which means we have some 1,700 feet of privacy. You feel like you’ve arrived somewhere outside of subdivisions and PTO meetings and have been delivered to a new world filled with possibility. Throw in some rum and it’s a party.
The kids disappeared from the scene the moment they arrived, spreading out over our property like the Lord of the Flies. By 8:30, a cloud of dust hung over the driveway from 70 turning bike wheels so mighty that it looked like the frontier being settled by a bunch of kids in shorts and t-shirts carrying iPods.
The women gathered on the front porch pretending to watch the children. Occasionally we saw a child dart between the trees. “There’s mine!” a mom would call. “Over there, I see another!” we would say, careful to watch them but not attract them.
The men gravitated to the back with the beer cooler. I had spent a good chunk of time at Target buying candleholders and patio lights for the back porch in preparation for this big blowout party, only to see it fall on the blind eyes of men carrying koozies of Bud Light. The women sat on the front deck with no ornamentation and the garden hose wrapped around their feet.
At 9:30, Tim opened Puerto Rican Rum. Tim handed each adult a shot. It took only one person to say yes for the others to fall in line. None, it turned out the next day, realized it was 151 proof at the time.
After 30 minutes of the inner workings of rum and the arrival of nightfall, I announced it was time to have our “night hike” out back in the woods.
What? came the shrieks of disbelief. But those who had been to our parties before quickly assembled. The hike was non-negotiable. Flashlights were discouraged but two were allocated (for the security of the newbies and those under the age of 10).
As tradition dictates, we hike to the backside of our property, as far as possible into the perils of Interlochen, and ask that all flashlights be turned off. And for everyone to stand still. And to be absolutely quiet. Then we stand together in the dark, in silence, in the endless forest, bonded by our solidarity.
Until someone (me) asks, in a quiet, quiet voice,
“Did you hear that?”
Cue the tears. Children scrambled for their mothers and women clung to each other like teenagers. There were lots of screaming, cardiac arrests and “Flashlight” apps opened on smart phones.
This year we had the added bonus of someone firing up an iPhone with the Dogman song. As tradition also dictates, we made the trip back to the house in half the time.
Confession: This is the signature move at all Chapple parties. After being scared to the limit, back at the house, we all bask in the glory of survival. I have found no better bonding experience at a party.
Now you know about this total crowd pleaser. You are welcome to it, but please don’t try it on me (I hate being scared).