We had a sledding party in Station Maine today. It was a snap decision that we had scheduled months ago. Really. I had been promising the kids this party for weeks. A day of just play in the snow. So, here it was, a Saturday, sparkling and winter warm, right after a solid eight inches of new snow. And here are we with our facility conveniently located right next to the park with the best sledding in the city. It doesn't get any better.
Parties with Station Maine are amazingly simple. The kids and parents have learned to expect spontaneous, expect simple, and expect a good time. A few phone calls to parents, a few bags of hot dogs and rolls, a slow cooker full of hot chocolate. That's about it. Station Maine was given a couple of toboggans a few years ago to cover those who didn't have sleds or saucers of some nature. We have a barrel of extra gloves and scarves and hats. That's all.
I have a lot of faith in kids. Give them their own devices and they will create their own amusements. My job, all of it, was to make sure the hot dogs and cocoa were cooked and to get out of the way. I chatted with parents. I took a few pictures. That's about all. I noticed with some joy that we needed more hot dogs and cocoa, but that the older kids were taking care of all that. We are about the kids. I'm all for discipline and hard work. I'm all for the boat, the rules of the sea, the command structure. But some days kids just need to play.
The kids worked their way back and forth, in and out, between sledding in the cold and eating in the warm for several hours. Inside we had a game of Munchkins going on. I don't play and I don't totally understand the rules, but it is interactive, it is fun, and it is harmless. Food. Conversation. Play. Did I say this was a party? Adults were there, but we inserted nothing of ourselves into the scene. How often do kids get to come together and just be?
After most of the action had subsided, the noise level dropped down, and the Munchkins game was over we decided to play some music. Music is pretty strong in our part of the world. Most of the families have contra-danced. Some of the kids are learning, maybe five or six of us in a makeshift band, to play the traditional tunes. This is part of a party, to make music. OK, we're not exactly ready for prime time, but we're learning and we're having fun.
It was then, while some of us fiddled, that Devin, one of our Watch Captains asked "Muriel, do you want us to clean up?". Listen to that closely. He didn't offer to do it alone. Devin just volunteered to organize the younger kids in the clean-up. I said and did nothing that didn't involve the key of D or G. I was totally focused on the music. The younger kids followed Devin's lead. He is a Watch Captain. He can command the gig. He can dock in 30 knots of wind. He can tie a bowline behind his back. If Devin says it's time to clean up then it is something of a privilege to work with him. Devin has learned that you can't lead from behind. His Juniors rally behind him.
Not all the Watch Captains enjoy younger kids. They prefer the more mature company of their peers. They opted to check the boat and bail what they could of the accumulation of winter in the bilge. I don't know who went with them. I only know that the work got done. I know that every kid was engaged even though there were no adults to lead them. I know that when we got tired of fiddling and looked up the room was clean, the spare gloves were drying, the boat was tended to, and the dishes were drying.
There is a deep place in my heart where I believe that in the simple act of having a sledding party these kids learned as much about life and making your way through it as they would have on the boat. They learned that there is much fun to be had in simple ways. They learned that it doesn't take much to have a party. They learned that the music of their heritage is a part of that party. They learned that there is a certain amount of work to be done at the end of any adventure and it doesn't take a lot of effort if we all work together.
We had a sledding party in Station Maine today. It was a truly educational experience.