Today is the last day of school for my kids. My oldest is in 7th grade, so the last day for her will be nostalgic, bittersweet, and filled with overwhelming joy at the thought of sleeping in and staying up late facechatting or talktiming with her friends. But for my two youngest -who are leaving 4th and 2nd grade- today is the last great humiliation of the school year. Yes, today is Field Day. This is the day where several “games” and “sporting events” are set up in the field surrounding the school and they get to compete one more time for domination over their classmates. It’s that one more “kick in the teeth”, if you will. I’m sure some of you are thinking “Hey, I loved Field Day! How can you talk about it that way?” Well guess what, you alpha males and females, you were the ones that made Field Day such a horror for us athletic-deficient folks.
In all honesty, Field Day should be one last great hurrah before summer break. It should be kids laughing, having fun, playing silly games, and singing in unison as unicorns ascend from the Heavens to share their rainbow magic and even let the overweight, awkward, and generally outsider kids float on a cloud of cotton candy as their former tormentors see the err of their ways and embrace them for their inner beauty. Those crabby, way-past-their-prime teachers that sucked up to the popular kids and ostracized those very same awkward kids that they should have been nurturing and taking under their wings would also see what a**holes they’d been all year and make up for a year of nagging and under-their-breath slander, allowing themselves to be put in dunk tanks filled with hot, brown gravy that was served all year over nearly everything. This is how Field Day should’ve been. But it wasn’t, not that I can recall. I recall feats of strength, gallows poles, chopping blocks, and tar and feathering. I recall the porthole to Hell opening in the tiny town where my elementary school was located and Satan himself rising from demonic fires and being the grandmaster to the potato sack race, the 100 meter wind sprints, the long jump, the piranha hand toss, and the “Bed O’ Nails” sandbox time out. The soul-scorching heat only added to the “unique flavor” of the day; and the warm cans of Like Cola didn’t do much to squelch that Midwestern heat. If you were lucky you’d sprain an ankle, break a femur, or by the luck of Jebus you’d impale yourself on one of the many sharpened spears hidden throughout the grounds in dug out “traps” disguised as benches where the out-of-shape kids could sit(and some of the out-of-shape teachers) and catch their breath. Once you were wounded -mildly, mortally, or otherwise- you were removed from the “festivities” and remanded to the triage tent where you were either given Pop Ice and then dumped by the road for your parents to come pick you up, the bloodied, sweat-soaked mess that you were; or you were euthanized depending on the extent of your wounds. This was called “Graduation”. Either way, it was better than remaining on the front lines for the remainder of that hellish day.
My kids are pretty tough. I think they’ll manage. They’re quick on their feet, fast-thinking, and can talk themselves out of hairy situations. Me? On those last hellish days of elementary school I’d hide inside a tractor tire, sweating and soiling myself during those 4 hours until Beelzebub screamed his final ghastly cackle and descended back into the bowels of Hell until the next Field Day. I’d emerge and see the bloodied fields, the limb-filled potato sacks, and the last remaining squirming piranhas jumping for air and flesh.
“aut disce aut discede”….either learn or leave.
I’m outta here.