Every year our upper and middle school students host a Fall Festival for the lower school students because they have boundless philanthropic intentions. We also force them into an afternoon of indentured servitude. Each advising group sponsors a booth or an activity, and for the third year running, my guys have manned the inflatable slide. Operating the slide is a piece of cake, really. All you need is a trio of workers, a wicker basket for ticket collection, and a small packet of nitroglycerin tablets to make it through the festivities.
My juniors work together like the holy Trinity. One takes tickets, another works the base as a bouncer, and a third stakes out the top for safety intervention. As the first role is self-explanatory, allow me to expound upon the latter two. First, we have the bouncer. This student must be a fascinating mixture of compassion and nerves of steel, because unlike a bounce house, the giant slide has no door. The entire base is open on each side, making the gatekeeper’s job as delicate as splitting explosive wires; one false move and it’s all over. Speak too harshly, and you’ve got a wide-eyed, gingham-wearing, crying preK student on your hands. Speak too gently, and they grind you under their heel as they charge the base with the vigor of newly released bulls in Pamplona. Just seeing the crazed look in their eyes as they fling their tiny bodies into the inflated canvas structure gives you a historical glimpse of the French storming a castle while someone in the background screams, “Trebuchet!” One of my girls volunteered to be on the front lines, but I gently hinted that she might be more useful behind the wicker basket.
“But why, Ms. Carver?” she asked in a voice that suggested she would be afraid to squash a mosquito for fear of hurting his feelings. I patted her arm and told her I was holding out for someone with more vinegar to her personality. No offense.
But if you think the bouncer’s job takes courage, you should see the poor soul on the perch. Trapped at the top with five children making laps in a frenzied manner, this poor fellow has to remind the little tykes that they aren’t allowed to practice acrobatics from the inflated mountain peak. And it doesn’t matter how many times this soldier humbly suggests that the children need to sit on their bottoms before sliding down, the command obviously turns into Eskimo grunts the second it leaves his mouth because at least a baker’s dozen of them will attempt a triple pike half flip off the top of Mt. Carbon Dioxide. Here’s where the nitroglycerin tablets come in handy. I’ve decided to load them into a Pez dispenser for next year.
But I have to say, all these heart palpitations remind me that I probably wouldn’t need an AED machine if I bore the title of “mom.” One mother stood next to me, and we began chatting after I asked a fellow to refrain from clocking a little girl in the face. She pointed to the two exchanging salutations.
“Those are mine. They’re brother and sister. Don’t worry about my daughter; with three older brothers, she can hold her own.”
I eyed this petite fairy in pantaloons dubiously until I saw the delicate flower sail down the chute, bounce to her feet, miscalculate the gravitational pull of an air mattress and go head quickly followed by heels over the edge. She came up grinning and wiping hair out of her eyes. Her brother, not to be outdone by an act worthy of WWF wrestling, began his descent with the scream of a person being bludgeoned to death and ended with a face plant on the tarp. Whatever points he lost for artistic expression were counterbalanced with enthusiastic execution. And the mom just smiled the entire time. Strange. Admirable, but definitely strange.
Thus ended another Fall Festival. As I sit here typing this nearly five hours after its benediction, my blood pressure has finally receded from the Brace Yourself for a Stroke range. Thank God I deal with teenagers. Sure, they might be a little moody from time to time, but what’s a little hormonal imbalance? I’ll take my darlings over the 4 foot kamikaze storm troopers any day of the week.
© 2012 – Traci Carver