Not unlike countless other institutions of its kind, my kids’ grade school hosts an annual Spring Carnival, and for as long as my little two have been attending said school, we’ve always gone.
The school in question is pretty social. One of the reasons we were first attracted to the place was because of its warm, inclusive community. There’s a planning committee made up of parents (my wife served on it for two years) that regularly schedules school-wide events for kids and parents alike, ranging from annual walk-a-thons through boozy Christmas parties (well, boozy for the parents). It’s a close-knit group we’ve come to know and love.
The Spring Carnival, however, has always been something of a headache. Usually occurring on a sweltering, late spring day and featuring a needless disc-jockey with a big, booming sound-system playing contemporary (and frequently inappropriate) pop crap at a volume normally reserved for SWANS, the needle on the discomfort-o-meter is frequently buried solidly in the red. Add to that mix a teeming legion of screaming children, running frantically between bouncy castles, schlocky prize tables, a Silly String tent and a wide array of junk food stalls, and you’ve got pretty much all you need for a nervous breakdown. Every year, I dread it.
The kids have always loved it, though. The simple utterance of the very word, “carnival,” would get them excited. Despite repeatedly getting overwhelmed, overheated, overexcited and under-hydrated, they still equated the Spring Carnival with 100% fun. Regardless of all those times they ran out of prize tickets, or had to wait too long for the bouncy slide or how undercooked that hot dog was, the Spring Carnival was a great time, as far as Charlotte and Oliver were concerned.
Knowing my place in the food chain, I played along. I acted as de-facto security one year, standing guard (well…sitting, actually) at one end of the block to make sure no small people wandered off (or wandered off with someone other than their parent). I also sold raffle tickets one year (see picture above – yes, that’s me, the clichéd punk rock dad). You’d never think an antiquated bit of stereo equipment would be a hot raffle item, but go know. Most of the time, however, I would just buy fistfuls of ride and prize tickets and make sure the kids had fun and didn’t lose their minds. The day might usually end with a migraine and a sunburn, but as long as the kids had had fun, that’s what mattered. Their happy little smiles and cherubic little giggles forgave a multitude of petty annoyances.
This year’s Spring Carnival is this coming Sunday, and while I was preparing to roll my eyes and sigh, I learned that neither of my kids are harboring any great desire to attend. Charlotte’s well over it, and even not-so-little little Oliver doesn’t seem especially phased.
And just like that, another era ends.
…and I get all choked up.