Once a year, we take our children to the school fund raiser. For those unfamiliar with the American system of public education, the wealthiest Country of the Western civilized nations usually falls short of funds to the tune of many thousands of dollars. The fund raisers, several throughout the year, serve to finance several programmes for the children to enjoy. Some support fringe benefits such as science camps, others add enrichment projects such as arts, music and sports.
Hence our family trots out in support of this event. Each year it becomes easier. This year we go in two shifts to accommodate those who desire to walk from dawn to dusk, and those would prefer to take a step or two in the right direction.
When the boys and I arrive, the public address system is audible two blocks away. The crowds have died down and hundreds of people move around the playing field in laps.
We are able to register and take care of paperwork in the open play ground, well staffed by cheerful, helpful volunteers. The boys are each handed a Walkathon T-shirt for the event, our first hurdle. Since we are the last to arrive, the only shirts left are the small size. Although they are both quite happy to be without clothes for a far higher percentage of time that then average child, they are both suddenly attacked by a blast of unexpected social decorum,
….“but……I cant be take my shirt off!”
“Yes you can. I'll help you. Then we can put the Walkathon T-shirt on instead, then you'll be the same as everyone else.”
“But……everyone will be seeing my….my…..my bare…..bareness!”
I beat the word 'irony' to the back of my brain and wrestle with shirts as both boys twist themselves about like corkscrews, their arms and legs wrapped around like elastic. It is a feigned and yet uncannily realistic rendition of truly false modesty. The screwed up facial expressions are overkill. On completion neither is particularly bothered by the new skin tight garment with bare midriff.
I edge them up onto the sports field and peer around for their dad and sister. I yell into my cell phone in an attempt to make contact. A pal taps me on the arm to communicate something officious and important. Both boys adopt this as their cue for take off. As they scamper away in opposite directions, my eyes follow them until they're forced to focus snap back to my chum. Lost in the crowd in seconds.
Even though I can't decipher any apart from the public address system, it seems like the best way to attempt contact. As I press 'end call' on my phone, I remember that he's networked all the phones into our home phone answering system. Typical.
I seek out the usual hidey holes, those furthest distance from the hub bub, the toilets, the edge of the play ground, the play centre on the far field. Although they wear a distinctive shade of day glow yellow shirts, on this particular occasion, so does every other child in the school. I spot my elder son walking laps backwards to face the current object of his affections, a charming and lively fifth grader. I assume, or rather hope, that her feminine wiles will entertain him for the remainder of the lap and continue my quest for the little one.
Where on earth could he be?
By chance I find my daughter and husband, neither have seen him.
We are running out of options. “I wonder if he's dashed back to the car to escape?” I mutter over the din of the microphone announcements. My elder son appears after completing his lap, still walking backwards but mercifully vertical. I pounce on him before he veers off, “have you seen your brother?” He points in the vague direction of……….nothing in particular. “Where dear?” We all strain our eyes to decipher, search the sea of bodies, whittle out the rogue when I hear a familiar voice come bellowing out over the public address system, “America rules! England stinks!”