So I'd been told that we -- The Wife and I -- needed to be at the elementary in time for the "televised" morning announcements this morning. She said Daughter was being mentioned in the announcements, and I shrugged and mumbled and said "yeah fine whatever..." as I am wont to do.
We rise, get the kids prepped and loaded and fired out the tubes toward their respective targets, and then The Wife and I then turn our focus to getting into clothes presentable to normal humans.
I'm culling through the t-shirts, looking for one that won't draw *too* many stares of unspoken complaint (but still won't draw *none* -- there is a required balance in such calculations...), and I then grab a favorite (iow, "ratty") faded sweatshirt to pull over that, as it's a "brisk" morning.
"You're not going to wear that, are you? she asks in that way women do when they pose a question in the form of a complaint.
"What -- would that leave me looking not pretty enough to stand against a wall, uninvolved and wishing for coffee?"
"Why not wear this?" she instructs, pulling a nice oxblood sweatshirt that still has the tag it's had since I opened it as a Christmas gift at some point in the past decade.
She hands me the sweatshirt and retreats to finish her own prep. putting on a blouse which seems oddly... nice just for a walk to the school and back.
At that point I groan, as it becomes clear that I am being "handled" -- something is afoot, and I'm the lucky surprise recipient-to-be.
"Crap," grumbles I.
I hate awards and acclaim.
It's all surely tied into a host of bizarre and for-purposes-here-unimportant childhood episodes, but the gist of it is I simply do not trust public shows of acclaim and approval. They make my skin crawl, make me want to dig a hole, drop into it and shudder like a flounder to cover myself with a concealing layer of silt and grit.
Some people seem to not understand that, as I am (admittedly and proudly) the possessor of one of the world's truly great Egos. It's not that I think I'm all that and a bag of chips. It's that I am, baybee, and I don't need no silly damned trophy or certificate or round of applause to give me additional unneeded proof of such. BUT -- and here's where it gets screwy and demented -- I am also sufficiently aware of my own overlooming arrogance and Ego freakitude that I very much dislike feeding that particular monkey. I therefore make great effort to remain detached from my Ego, and I like to yank its leash every once in a while to remind the beast that I remain (mostly) in control.
And so, rather than allow that Ego to further inflate with stupid moments of self-adoring public adoration, I avoid them. Instead, into mine own ear I whisper that old warning, that "all glory is fleeting." Every new victory and elevation just gives me that much more which I will surely soon lose through clumsiness, arrogance, and gross staggering stupefying incompetence.
Yeah, yeah, this whacked-out little internal balance of terror is demented and twisted and surely deserving of professional corrective attention and analysis, but in the mean time it's also just who I am.
Deal with it.
Earlier this school year I once again volunteered (with the usual scowling and complaining) to head up the design and construction of all the stage sets and props for the school musical.
Stagecraft is a goofy and largely unprofitable skill, so of course it's precisely the kind of thing I love and excel at. I started helping with stage stuff when I was maybe 10 years old and my mom was in charge of the local small-town beauty pageant, and we'd be part of a volunteer crew that would be tasked with turning a junior high stage into a fantasy castle or a Ziegfeld visual using nothing but spit, toilet paper cartons, and 73 pounds of duct tape.
I helped there annually for years, and eventually became the defacto stage director. I was in charge of pretty much everything from the curtains on back. (If any wonder WHY I would be interested in this, remember that by that point I was 17 years old and the gig put me solo backstage for a few long nights with 40+ totally nervous totally hot high school girls in low-cut evening gowns -- it was a good gig, guys.)
So I honed (stagecraft and other) skills there, and over the next few decades I'd duplicate that kind of creative silliness in the name of a dozen other similar crafty things like Cub Scouts and PTA and dance class, where I'd be the dad tasked with making a giant teacup or a pirate ship or a Viking longboat or a jungle or Monument valley, all built from chicken wire and whatever I could pull from a dumpster.
And 73 pounds of duct tape.
The local elementary stages two musicals every year -- for the fourth graders in the fall, and for the second graders in the spring. With four kids having passed through the halls there, all spaced just right, it's worked out that I've had a kid in line for a musical pretty much every year for the past decade, so years back when they posted a call for folks interested or experienced with designing stage sets, I said "sure, why not."
And done it again almost every year since.
Thus I've become a sort of annual tradition. I internally giggle at how the PTA ladies seem not totally thrilled to share my air, as I am a grumpy grumbling snarling hissyfit in human form most times when I am compelled to endure the butt-puckering bureacracy of the public school system (where it usually feels that I need to have my ID checked and two forms approved before I even think about bending at the waist or scratching my backside), but by the same token they are always totally stunned and overjoyed by whatever insane construction I ultimately reveal on Opening Night. It's not my Ego talking when I say I'm good at this stuff. Damned good.
And I know that. And I don't need or want anyone else's approval or celebration in order to know that and take pride in it. Making castles from cardboard and jungles from cheesecloth is just one of those totally odd things I am way better at than most normal people.
As he says in LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, "I cannot fiddle, but I can make a great state from a little city." Or a Mother Goose fairy tale land using finger paints and butcher paper.
And 73 pounds of duct tape.
So there I stand in the AV Room "studio" for the CCTV "broadcast" the kids make every school day as part of the morning announcements. I see my daughter standing there, dressed slightly nicer than normal, ostensibly to look good for "her" moment onscreen. And I notice my 4th grader son also there, grinning, and I just roll my eyes at the attempted deception: why would he be here just to see his sister when she is being broadcasted into his classroom? Why did The Wife uncharacteristically give a fig what I wore today? Why were all the front office folks greeting me by name when I did the required handprint, retinal scan and voice analysis to gain entrance to NORAD Elementary?
Come on, guys. Credit me with SOME snap here.
One of the cool little traditions at the elementary is the award of commemorative boomerangs to the "Outbacker of the Month." (The school has a pervasive Aussie/Koala/Outback theme). 'Rangs are awarded to students who do exceptional stuff in volunteer service, or who have some spectacular achievement in academics or service or whatever. They also hand out a boomerang monthly to the parent volunteer of the month.
My kids have long remarked that it seems strange that I've never been awarded one of these Outbacker of the Month boomerangs, given the insane work I've done over the past eight years in building sets and installing props and building stuff for the PTA carnival and building 3D bulletin boards and blah blah blah.
"I don't do that stuff so I can win a silly danged boomerang. I do that so you guys love going to that school and take pride in what you attempt there."
"Yeah, but people need to respect you for your work!"
"I'd rather they just respect the work itself. I'll respect the exhausted fool who did it."
So I am standing there, dressed nicer than I'd like to be dressed (per The Wife's command) and I see both my kids standing there grinning at me like a pair of Wonder Twin Idjits, and I see there are six kids in line to be awarded Outbacker Boomerangs, and I see there are seven boomerangs lined up to be handed out, and I see Daughter covering her mouth like she knows a secret and then pointing to the boomerangs being handed out and then raising her eyebrows as if to say "golly I wonder what's going on today" and the whole damned charade is just so clumsy and pathetic that I am half-tempted to duck out a side door and diminish into the west before I am forced to come up and listen to a bunch of noise and feel Ego writhing around in disgusting appalling self-adoring paroxysms of ecstasy.
But I don't.
'Cuz these silly people all mean well and want to enjoy their little game, and making me squirm and feel totally uncomfortable apparently brings great joy to folks, so I get called onscreen by the Principal and she reads some maudlin overblown and entirely too grandiose bit of niceness to/for/at me, and I accept the silly piece of painted wood (which is not even a real damned boomerang, BTW -- totally useless for throwing or hunting) and we all wave and smile to the camera as the announcements wrap up and we then get photographed for the newsletter or yearbook or whatever and my kids say "were you SURPRISED, daddy?" and I smile and lie and blah blah blah get me the hell outta here NOW.
I understand that I'm supposed to be thrilled and happy about all this, and I guess on some level that's hard for me to access and enjoy like normal people apparently do I am, but on the whole I'd be far far happier with just a casual nudge as we look at the work itself, and maybe one quiet yet sincere "that'll do, pig. That'll do."
And I could really use a new roll of duct tape.