Picking Up Balls

I owed a favor to a friend and she came collecting last night. She teaches at an elementary school in the area and needed help keeping her sanity while running a game at their annual school carnival. My first instinct was to pretend I couldn’t hear her and maybe inch away slowly while humming, but I did owe her. So I agreed. Begrudgingly.

I love kids. Mostly. For small periods of time if they’re on their best behavior and don’t have food items or sticky nose leakage on their faces/hands/clothes. I figured at the very least I could throw my ever-prepared uterus a bone and entertain the thought of bearing children someday while handing out rubber bracelets and temporary tattoos. I’m at a certain age now. An age that no longer allows me to deny the existence of a condescendingly named “biological clock”. Especially since my lady parts do cartwheels every time I see a chunky-monkey baby. I have to physically restrain myself from asking the parents if I can squeeze their baby. Because that would be weird, right? I thought so. I mean…I only considered it for a minute. Usually, after I get my hands on a tiny human for a few minutes it will inevitably cry or poop and I’m sated for another year. Problem solved. Without a lifetime commitment.

This is why I have such great respect for teachers. Just…how do they do it every single day without the authority to actually deal out discipline and somewhere south of zero or north of too much cooperation from the parents? They drink. That’s how. Not on the clock, of course. But on their own time. For hours. And it helps that most of the kids are cute. I was only at the school for 3 hours and I went through a rollercoaster of emotions and sometimes downright mean thoughts about the children.

Type "Diversity Children" into google. It's weird.

Type “Diversity Children” into google. It’s weird.

If you weren’t sure, I’m pretty middle class. I’m also white (though I throw around that small percentage of Cherokee like the ethnic street cred card that it is). So when I land in the middle of a low-income school with a beautiful amount of diversity, I’m out of my element. I’m watching it all from my white, middle class glass box. I’m not mentioning this to segue into a caste system lecture, I’m telling you because everything I heard and saw was delightful and hilarious. I actually took notes. I don’t spend a lot of time with children in general, let alone a Reading Rainbow of diversity like I encountered last night. There were little munchkins of every flavor imaginable. I loved it. My friend happens to teach the ELL students, those who are learning English as a second language, so she has a special bond with a lot of the more foreign flavors.

Our job at the loosely named carnival was to man the “Tic Tac Toe” station. It was set up in the classroom of the school’s eccentric teacher. Their resident “Miss Frizzle”. It smelled like 20 pairs of dirty feet and was stiflingly hot. The object of our game was to of course get a tic tac toe. But in order to do that, the kids had to toss hollow plastic balls into the game board from approximately 3 feet away. It was impossible. We found ourselves making up rules on the fly to help these kids have a chance in hell at walking away with a coveted rubber bracelet or temporary tattoo. Our contestants ranged from the overly cocky older children to the overly enthusiastic children of indiscriminate age. Hardly an in between.

The game invented to kill the spirits of all the children.

The game invented to kill the spirits of all the children.

There was one very large kid who wanted very badly to be our helper. I was glad for the help since bending to pick up plastic balls every five seconds nearly killed me before we ever had a winner. The glad gave way to hilarity once I realized that his form of helping was to basically “bounce” the kids if they tried to take a longer turn or cut in line. He started singing for us. High, long notes that I identified as his best attempt at opera. I said to him, “Jumping right to opera is a bold move”, and he replied, “Why? I love Oprah!” I had to leave the room. This same kid started to challenge the authority of my friend, who he knows only as a teacher, and he said, “Whatever, I’m taller than you.” (He is not) My friend just looked at him and he continued, “Well, I’m ‘Bout to be tall!” I died.

Oprah Opera. Get it?

Oprah Opera. Get it?

Between the precocious bouncer, the hyper-active transport from the Balkans, the droves of well-dressed tiny Asian children and the surprisingly competitive toddlers of every creed, we had our hands full. Our hearts were breaking for loser after loser but we had to remain strong. The prizes were so had to come by, in fact, that I witnessed a hush-hush deal in the doorway. A kid of about 10 years old was offering some stolen prize contraband to the bidder with the most tickets to offer. I almost threw my hat in the ring. I did have a whole bucket of game tickets, after all.

The night wasn’t all sweating and picking up balls.  I was able to catch up on some new slang, which was nice. But I’m fairly confident that between my friend and myself, we ruined the word “Beast” for every child at the school. When grownups do it, it becomes instantly uncool and for that, I apologize. But I was beastin’ it.  Even if I’m not ’bout to be tall.





Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *