Barbara: My first blog-post ever was about friendship—how I was quite unfit to be a real friend for the longest time because I had gotten into a bad habit of only being a nurturer and caregiver. I had no idea how to just sit back and enjoy the reciprocity of a good friendship. When I discovered this, I committed myself to real change. Which is when and how I found Deb.
But the exceptions that prove this rule are the friendships that began before my earnest "helicopter-friending". I am lucky enough to have some lifelong friendships that somehow managed to bypass all my usual pitfalls. I think the reason is that these friends who I only saw once or twice a year didn't have a chance to be held hostage by my secret Super-Nurturer. I didn’t have time to sneak away, tear off my glasses and button-down sweater, and don my latex super-hero garb and and laser-bangles, then clasp them to my breast and heeeeaaal. I had to just … yeah, sit back and enjoy the reciprocity of good friendship.
Twenty years ago this year, two of these lifelong friends—Sean dates back with my husband and I to university, and his (very welcoming) wife, Ann—began a tradition that continues to this day. They invited us, along with another couple—John and Sandy, who were also great friends since university––to visit them at their home for a weekend. The catch? By some miracle of timing, we had all just had our first babies. Sean dubbed it BabyFest.
It was a fest indeed. We ate incredible food, drank as much as we could given our parental states, and shared stories (oh yeah, and we changed diapers, wiped drool, and snuck away with a baby when they wouldn’t settle). Two days later, we stumbled our respective ways, vowing to do it again the next year.
And twenty years later, we’ve never let a single thing get in the way of getting to our annual fete. Our kids have grown up together—despite rarely being able to see each other outside of our get-togethers. This fact never stopped them from forming enduring friendships with the BabyFest offspring, with whom they can always somehow share their deepest feelings. Kinda like their parents. While the growing children gamboled about in whatever retreat we had finagled (everything from a windswept house, to a gay man’s living homage to all things Christmas, to my sister’s cottage on an out-of-the-way lake), the adults forged their love and respect for each other through eating and drinking splurges that may rival ancient Roman feasting without the, you know, orgies and stuff (remember, not into that—see Just Your Average Swingers).
BabyFest lasts three to four days, during which each family hosts one adults’ dinner, one kids’ dinner, and one brunch and doesn’t do a thing the other meals. It’s lovely. This year some of the “kids” (the oldest are all now officially university-attending adults, argh) did a dinner retrospective of their most memorable kids’ dinners. I think hotdogs on skewers, tacos, and root beer floats figured large. The adults are all foodies and have covered just about every country’s fare in themed dinners, from Ethiopian to British to Hawaiian. Complete with costumes, mood-music, and party favours. We take our feasting very seriously.
And there is such solace and relief—especially when times are a little rough––in seeing our dear friends and knowing we can both relax and let loose. I think the kids think we’re a little off our rockers. But then again, apparently I don’t care what the kids think—not for the three days of BabyFest. That said, watching the seven BabyFest babies grow up has been a fascinating process—like the famous British doc, Seven Up, it’s like having a microcosm of people’s lives as they go from their youngest selves to grown-ups, always themselves, of course, but incrementally changed. And there is enormous gratitude that all seven of them have gone along for the ride, never rolling their eyes at our tradition and, in fact, embracing it with as much gusto as their parents. It turns out the BabyFest babies are prepared to go the distance with this holiday—vowing even to attend when their own parents need their diapers changed, their drool cleaned, and their to-do’s settled.
I swear to you, it’s worth trying. Although hard-hats are recommended.
BabyFest photo from 1996 and then recreated in 2007
Deb: I have listened for nine years to Barb’s building excitement as BabyFest approaches. Not once has the event not lived up to the anticipation, which is pretty incredible. There is nothing like beautiful tradition. I love that the kids have never strayed from their devotion to it either. They have never gone through a phase where it was “lame” or where other things in their lives have taken priority. May it always be this way. Long live BabyFest!