The gathering last week was more than a few neighbors getting together for coffee and conversation after seeing their children to the school bus on the first day of school.
The annual First Full Day of School event is a full-blown party, complete with posted timetable for meals, a steady stream of guests from 9 a.m. until evening and cars parked lining several nearby streets.
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For the past 11 years, the First Full Day of School Party has evolved to become a Pawlowicz family tradition.
Debbie Pawlowicz, the party founder and hostess, oversees all the cooking and party plans. She relies on her own fully stocked party closet for chaffing dishes, glass party dishes and fluted stemware.
The menu always includes her breakfast soufflé and strata, together with fresh fruit, bagels and muffins. For lunch, guests look forward to her famous tortellini soup, chicken salad and chocolate dessert, among other items.
Every year, she adds a little surprise. This year, it was a photo booth set up in the living room for guests. It also was the second time for Nashville performer and "CMT's Next Superstar" show runner-up Steven Clawson, who entertained by singing and playing his guitar.
"The party is our way of giving back to our Lisle community and all the friends we've made over the years that our four children have enjoyed," Pawlowicz said. "This is our gift to the community."
As a former Home and School Organization president, Pawlowicz estimates that she served on every committee possible over the years, and her husband, Steve Pawlowicz, was on the school board.
She came up with the idea for the first party when their youngest child, Jack, entered first grade. With three other children ranging in age from 12 to 16 at that time, Pawlowicz said the first full day with all their children in school was worth celebrating.
The party continues as a great way to meet other parents and exchange back-to-school news and strategies.
Lisle resident Monica Wagoner says she looks forward to finding out what is happening in local schools at the annual party. She feels it is important to volunteer in the Home and School Organization and, in the process, gain a new perspective by being involved.
Lisle resident Meredith Burke, a regular at the party, first met Pawlowicz when the two were room mothers for a kindergarten classroom.
With four children, Burke starts her back-to-school readiness with late spring sales for parts of her children's school uniforms. She also shops early school supply sales so that in the last few weeks the children have assembled everything they need long before any deadlines.
Patricia Valencia is one of the new party attendees. She enjoyed shopping in August with her daughter for back-to-school clothes and supplies. She already has volunteered to be an assistant leader with her daughter's Girl Scout Brownie troop, which she feels is a good way to meet a child's friends.
Pockets of conversation inside and in the backyard of the Pawlowicz home centered on school. Wagoner, who is HSO recording secretary this year, likes to be involved.
Her three daughters started earlier bed times last week and the girls shopped for some school outfits. Wagoner advises new parents to spend extra time talking to a child who may be anxious.
"Don't wish away the time," Wagoner said. "It all goes too fast. Enjoy your time together."
Kerri Metelski had similar sentiments to pass on to parents.
"Enjoy every second; it all goes too quickly," she said.
Even though Metelski was looking forward to some house decorating she put off this summer, she understands why even the family dog was a little sad that morning watching the kids in the family head off to school.
Another newcomer to the school routine is mom Danielle Costello, whose daughter started kindergarten this year. Costello called the school and arranged for her daughter to meet her teacher ahead of time because the school did not have a formal meet-and-greet with teachers ahead of opening day.
Mom Darcy Pellicano of Lisle worked on a poster with her two children, which her husband laminated to hang in the kitchen. It lists all the possible lunch and snack items their family likes. The parents then indicate which items are in the house, and each night the children can check off the items they would like in their school lunches. Whoever is ready to make lunches in the morning needs only to consult the chart.
Pawlowicz's advice to parents is to understand that "going to school is the most important thing your children are doing right now. It is their job to have a successful school year."
"My children were up earlier than I expected this morning because they were so excited," shared Rosemary Gallaway, a Lisle mom.
In the afternoon as the party continued strong, Sue Ekins, who volunteers as the St. Joan of Arc parish librarian, reminded friends to "spend a little time to take care of yourself, too, in body, mind and spirit."
Most parents acknowledge that after a hectic summer schedule, getting back to the school routine is sweet and worth celebrating.
• Joan Broz writes about Lisle. Her column appears regularly in Neighbor.