Having a Ball

Brendan’s school is different from most of the other schools I’ve had dealings with throughout the years.  They don’t do your typical student fund raisers.  You know the ones I’m talking about, where they send home a packet with food or trinkets that you don’t really need but feel obligated to parade around to your friends and family in order to raise funds for the school.  I brought those things home from school 2-3 times a year and our relatives bought thousands of items that they didn’t need just to help me out.

But in the four years Brendan has been in elementary school he’s never brought one home.  Instead of that their school hosts a ball at the end of every school year.  It’s a really big deal and they spend all year promoting it.  They collect donations from families and businesses to auction off, the students nominate a king and queen of the ball by dontaing money into buckets for their favorite teachers, families get dressed up in their nice clothes and come to the school to dance away the evening.

Despite the hype, up until this year we’ve never gone to the actual ball.  Matt and I aren’t big into crowds and noise, and Brendan never had any desire to go.  But this year was different.  Originally, because Brendan had never shown any interest, we hadn’t made any plans to go to the ball.  In fact there was a hockey game scheduled for the same night that I was going to take Brendan to because it was the last home game of the season and it would be his chance to say goodbye to the players before they went home for the year.

Then a few weeks before the ball, Brendan asked if he could go.  There was a girl at school he’d asked to go to the ball with him and he wanted to go and be her date.  It was so stinking cute that we said he could go.  At the time that he asked to go I wasn’t thinking about the hockey game we’d planned to go to.  When I finally remembered, I sat him down and explained the situation and gave him the choice of what he wanted to do.

Without hesitation he picked the ball.  However, he decided he wanted to make a good bye card for his favorite player and asked his grandparents to deliver it when they went to the game.  He worked on the card Thursday night and it was the cutest thing I’d ever read.  It said (and I’m paraphrasing because I can’t remember precisely), “Dear Nick, you are awesome.  I will miss you.  Please return.  Don’t go, stay with me.”

Even though he wasn’t able to go and say good bye in person I’m really glad he took the time to make the card.  He’s developed a good bond with this player throughout the season.  He has blonde hair so Brendan nicknamed him Gilderoy Lockhart (a teacher from the Harry Potter series) early on in the year.  And anytime he saw us after the game he’d come over to talk with Brendan.  Hopefully he’ll be back next season, but if not I’m sure Brendan will find someone new to bond with.

In the meantime we decided to make an evening out of it, and dressed in our finest clothes we took the kids out to dinner before the ball.  They were so excited that none of them ate very much of their dinner, so once Matt and I had finished our meals we packed the kids up and headed over to the school.

As it turned out, one of the notices the school had sent home had the time listed incorrectly.  And of course that was the notice I used when I wrote the time of the ball onto my calendar.  That notice had said the ball was from 6-8, and in checking the school’s website and weekly email the actual time of the ball was from 7-9.  So we were 55 minutes early.  No matter though, we knew parking would be a nightmare so being early was probably a blessing.

Since we only live a few blocks from the school we zipped home and picked up a DVD to entertain the kids, and drove back up to the school and sat in the parking lot to wait for the ball to start.  A good thing we did too.  By the time we left the ball there were cars parked along every street for blocks, and many people had decided to off road onto one of the vacant lots in the neighborhood and cars there were at least 3 deep.

The theme for this years ball was “A Night in Candyland,” and the school was decorated to look like the board game.  Having never been to the ball before we weren’t sure what to expect activity wise, and as it turned out there isn’t much to it.  They had tables set up as you entered the school so you could purchase raffle tickets, then the flow of traffic took you into the main gym where they had a refreshment stand set up with cookies and bottled water, and all of the prizes being raffled off so you could place your tickets into the buckets.

The secondary gym was set up for the dance itself and although we were one of the first families to arrive there were already dozens of kids running around like crazy in the gym.  My kids soon followed suit and were having a great time streaking around the gym.  Kaylee would run for a while then purposely throw herself to the ground and try to0 slide across the floor.  Soon the main entertainment arrived, an Elvis impersonator (do these kids even know who Elvis is?) got the music started and the dance officially began.

Before long the gym was quite crowded.  We ran into most of our neighbors who were also there with their kids, and Brendan’s teacher.  Brendan ran right over to his teacher when we found her and gave her a great big hug.  I was happy we managed to find her in that huge crush of people.  Brendan was particularly keen to go and see her because that afternoon at school they’d announced that she was named queen of the ball.

Brendan was very proud to have been a part of making that happen.  Remember I said the kids donate money into their teachers boxes to nominate them?  Well Brendan reminded me a couple times during the week that he wanted to take money to school so he could nominate his teacher.  In the hustle and bustle of getting ready I kept forgetting to give him some.  Finally on the last morning I remembered.

Originally I was going to give him some of our spare change to take because that’s what we always give him during penny wars (another fund raiser they do, though that one isn’t for the school.  I want to say it’s for one of the local cancer charity’s, but right now I can’t remember).  As I was getting the money he asked if he could have dollar bills instead.  I had no problem with that and started to get a few ones out of my wallet.  He jokingly said, “Ones?  Don’t you have anything bigger, like fives?”

Well I didn’t have any fives, but what I did have was a twenty.  Knowing that the funds were going directly to help the school I had no problem making the larger donation.  I was a little worried about Brendan losing the money, but since he’d be getting right out of my car and going into the office I was fairly confident he’d make it to the buckets without losing it.  Besides this was something he really wanted to do, and that usually helps him not get distracted.

Apparently he was the only person to put a bill that large into one of the buckets and his teacher was quite surprised when they counted up her totals.  She asked the class who had done the donation and Brendan told her it was him.  He was so proud that he helped her win the competition.

After a while Brendan spotted the girl he’d “asked” to the ball.  We encouraged him to go over and talk to her but suddenly he was feeling very shy and wouldn’t even say hello.  In fact through the entire evening he would say hello back to anyone who said hi to him, but he wouldn’t hang out with any of his friends or go try to find anyone to talk to.  He clung to us and looked longingly out at the crowd having fun.

By about halfway through the ball Cameron had had enough and was ready to leave.  At first we told him he had to stay because this was Brendan’s party and we’d be there for as long as Brendan wanted to be.  A few minutes after we told Cameron we’d be staying Brendan admitted he’d had enough himself and was ready to go.  He was trying to have fun but I think the noise and the crowd finally got to him.

We tried to find his teacher one last time so he could say goodbye but by then there were so many people that it was impossible to locate her.  We ended the evening with a trip to the ice cream shop, and let the kids eat their ice cream in the boys bedroom while watching a cartoon.

Even though he didn’t have as much fun as he thought he would, I’m really glad we took Brendan to the ball.  I’ll be very interested to see if he asks to go again next year.

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