Each year, the school my children attend have a grade-specific themed festival. Last year in first grade, it so happened to be an Egyptian festival that fit in with their study of Egypt. This year, the second grade had a Greek festival. My youngest is in kindergarten and they're not really studying history yet, but that doesn't mean they get cheated out of the experience. Oh no, they have an upcoming festival that will have a "Mother Goose" angle. Seems more geared to the parents and grandparents than the kiddo's. But hey, who am I to prevent my six-year old from having her big day at school?
The children basically memorize a Mother Goose poem, get dressed in their favorite character, like Humpty Dumpty or something. Then they play games, eat and go home. Pretty straight forward. The teacher decided to get the parents all together to brainstorm the festival - what kind of food, games, crafts, etc. This was a first for me, because the previous two festivals were all coordinated by email. So, I get this invitation to the teacher's house for a parent's night of idea generation, complete with snacks and light conversation.
I left my wife at home with the kids and went on my journey. It turns out the teacher lives in a neighborhood that's just across the street from our house. I show up and the teacher greets me with a warm welcome and says something like, "Welcome to my house, I'm so glad you could make it." Then she said something that gave me pause; and by pause I mean that I began to feel rigor mortise set it my arms and legs. You see, she added these fateful words to the end of her initial greeting, "Wow, your sure are brave". She then smiled like the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland.
Like a commander on patrol in a war zone, I quickly took stock of my surroundings. They were everywhere. I looked in the living room and I saw six - all huddled together looking over some pictures. In the kitchen were seven more, laughing and snacking on some Girl Scout cookies, I think they were Thin Mints. The hallway had another two or three, which by my count, meant there were 17. I looked for reinforcements in the back den, entry way, out by the street - maybe they were parking the cars I thought. I became panicked as sweat began to drip off my brow. My clammy hands revealed the anxiety of my circumstance.
There would be no back-up, as no other Dads were on the premises. With a last dying hope, I asked the gracious host if her husband was in the house. She regretfully replied, "No, he wouldn't be caught dead at our home tonight". This is when I sensed the camera pulling away from its close-up of my desperate expression. Quickly it turns itself around and focuses in on a statuesque and clench-jawed Rod Serling, puffing on his cigarette. He then begins his black-and-white monologue about how I "have just entered the Twilight Zone".
The opposition could sense my aloneness and tried to put me at ease with handshaking and pleasant smiles, but my unease continued unabated. I then drew some comfort from several memories of being in similar meetings like this at the hospital where I used to work. In such a female dominated institution, I had been to many meetings where I was the only male representative. Or at least, the only heterosexual male representative. In any regard, I took my place in the living room, hoping to draw the meeting to an early start. Eventually it began, the teacher guiding us all through the details of the festival. We broke up into groups to hammer out the details for our individual days (remember, my children attend the school only on Mondays and Wednesdays). I viewed this as a breakout session and added my two cents here and there.
My watch eventually told me it was time to get back home and so I made my exit. An hour and twenty minutes had passed - it seemed like The Grand Canyon might have been created in less time. But I had survived yet another test. Another challenge overcome in the Mom-dominated world of festival preparation. I'm not sure what else is out there. I'm not sure, if I'll be up to the task. But I've always got this little adventure to keep in my back pocket. That gives me confidence.