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Goats from Bob’s Mobile Petting Zoo munch the begonias along the front walk of the brownstone. On the front stoop, kids bottle-feed spring lambs and pet others. Nearby, a saddled pony tosses her blonde mane and waits with her handler for the next rider. Ducks squawk as a neighbor, broom in hand, shoos them from her roses. Rock music and squeals of laughter pour through opened windows, their lace curtains frisked by winds within the froth of play.

It’s Chris’s surprise party for his twelfth birthday.

Inside, multi-colored streamers festoon the walls and fixtures, helium balloons smooch the ceilings, paper plates drip with remains of pizza and ice cream. Upon the dining room table dances the father who organized this after-school party; Chris and his buddies gyrate in tandem with him. In all the rooms more kids wearing party hats jump on sofa cushions and dance.

A sense of concerted play makes complete sense of this apparent mayhem until abruptly ended by the return of the irate mother, an interior design executive. “The party’s over,” says the father, and their shared camaraderie fizzles.

So the 1994 movie, Mrs. Doubtfire, begins.

Had not the mother axed this party, it would have continued into the evening; its momentum, open-ended and spiced with joy, fired imaginations of the participants and blessed them.

Imagine if Mrs. Doubtfire (the father’s later disguise) would throw a similar party on Capitol Hill—It would have to be a surprise.

 

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