As I write this, the thermometer reads more than 100 degrees, but the boy is still in school.
With Wake County’s year-round calendar, school’s always in somewhere, which is not nearly as catchy as it being 5 o’clock somewhere, but you might could make a song from it. And since I nabbed that “might could” Southern expression, let’s try another one: We may not be out for the summer, but we’re in the short rows.
It was about a month ago when I realized we’d gotten through nearly the entire sixth grade and I hadn’t been asked to volunteer. Not that I was complaining, but it was a big change from elementary school where they need parent “buddies” of all sorts. And to be honest, sometimes I kind of miss that whole thing of knowing who the teachers are and who the friends are, how the schedule works – that kind of thing.
So when the email (plea) surfaced for volunteers for Lufkin Middle School’s Hope Games, a cancer fundraiser that resembles field day, I signed up. It seemed like the perfect opportunity.
My son told me I’d have four kids for the day. That was horribly unreliable information.
There were 12 on my roster, one of whom I had to write in, because he just kind of showed up, and I wasn’t going to turn him away.
The entire school, sixth through eighth grades, gathered in the gym for the games’ opening ceremonies, shrieking and cheering, pounding the floor with their hands. There were hundreds of them.
I don’t know how to say this, but I had a terrible feeling of foreboding, like there was about to be a riot. A prison riot. The energy was intense, palpable. I wanted to run away.
Those poor teachers. If I taught at a middle school, I would need a box of wine in the teacher’s lounge and possibly a flask. I’m not even kidding.
We made our way outside to the first and second stations, and my team did quite well. I learned their names and gave them high-fives. I asked my son later if this was embarrassing, but he said no. I’m sure next year it will be embarrassing.
Then we got to a station called the Dizzy Bat, which was No. 3 on my list. I only remember, because my student who showed up unannounced was more concerned with my clipboard than I was, and he pointed out every number and activity as we approached it, often stroking my shoulder. Frankly, I appreciated the comfort.
Anyway, Dizzy Bat is a relay race where each player runs a distance, picks up a bat, puts the fat end vertically in the dirt and his forehead on the tip and runs around the bat a good 10 times, rendering himself dizzy before he runs back to base and slaps the hand of the next person.
We lined up, and the coach called on each team, asking the parent volunteers how many kids each had.
“I’ve got 12,” I said.
He counted. “You’ve got 10.”
What? How could I lose two kids between the Water Balloon Toss and Dizzy Bat? The stations were 7 feet apart.
The coach didn’t seem at all concerned that I’d lost two minors. Someone’s going to have to run twice, he announced.
But what had happened to my lost boys? I found another volunteer and asked her. She looked worried that I’d lost two kids and it was only 9:15.
I walked the field, checked the water station. Nothing. I finally found a teacher in our pod and confessed.
She wasn’t worried, either. They were probably inside for one reason or another. She checked this out and confirmed it, in case you were concerned.
Our last station was one where the kids had to take off their shoes and put them in a big pile. Then, they had to run to the pile, find their shoes, put them on, run back and tag the next person. Another relay.
It was hot, and everyone was ready for lunch.
The sweet boy who’d been shadowing me looked forlorn. “But I already have my shoes on,” he said.
“I know,” I said. “It’s a game. It’s supposed to be fun. Take them off, put them back on, and then we’ll go in for lunch.”
Bless his heart. On a 95-degree day, it didn’t make much sense to me, either. But there were carnival games and popsicles after lunch, and those were good enticements. It was a good day, and I even had a freeze pop with the kids after lunch to celebrate.
I told my son I appreciate what he goes through in a day. It’s a busy thing being a middle school student.
I’m grateful I got to go.
And, frankly, leave.
Middle school’s not something you want to do twice.