Last Friday was movie night at my little girl’s elementary school.
My lovely wife Darlene was busy with prior commitments, so I decided to take my daughters myself.
I had taken a half days vacation so that Darlene and I could attend a memorial service for a friend. Afterwards we sped around town trying to take care of some errands before the girls got home from school.
We arrived at the house when the school bus did. And we were greeted by two little girls excited for Movie Night.
“Daddy, Mommy can’t go!” whined my youngest.
“Will you take us Daddy?”
“What time does it start?”
“Mom said 5:45”, said my eldest. “That’s a quarter to six”.
“Really? That early?”, and I questioned it no more.
At 5:43 we piled into the jeep. We had blankets and chairs and a pillow or two.
At 5:45 we pulled into the school parking lot. The lot was sparsely filled with the odd minivan and pickup truck.
“Movie Night’s not very popular, is it?” I asked the now hyper girls in the back seats.
“Everybody’s going to be there Dad, c’mon”, said my youngest.
“What movie is it?” Why I hadn’t asked this before now ran around in the back of my mind. “What if this is a Hannah Montana or Justin Bieber movie? Oh dear God what if it’s Hannah Montana or Justin Bieber! Two hours of a gym full of kids screaming for the Bieb!”
“Karate Kid”, answered my eldest.
“Oh, I’ve seen that. It’s got the guy who owned Arnold’s on Happy Days”.
“Happy Days? No Daddy this one is new”.
“Who’s in it?”
“Jackie Chan”, said my youngest.
“Cool, let’s go”.
I like Jackie Chan.
We hauled all of our stuff in the side entrance to the school; a door marked “Movie Theatre Entrance”. A teacher was waiting to open it for us as we approached.
She looked puzzled at our arrival.
The hallway to the gym was full of screaming seventh graders – each manning a stand selling cookies and cakes from the bake sale – bottles of water – candies and popcorn. A fundraiser to raise money for their graduation next year.
The first stand was the admissions booth. The admission was two dollars each and we had to get our hand stamped.
“You’re our first customers" said the spectacled twelve years old, and I proceeded to herd my two little girls and our haul of chairs and blankets and pillows down the hallway lined with goodies.
Both girls had dipped into their piggy banks – and they quickly abandoned me to spend their not-so-hard-earned cash on junk.
When I reached the gym at the end of the hallway – it was empty. A laptop computer sat poised in the front center of the gym floor by the stage – hooked up to the PA system and a projector – and blaring loud obnoxious music that made Led Zeppelin sound like elevator music.
Come to think of it, I have heard Led Zeppelin on elevators. How times have changed.
I stood looking at that empty gymnasium, wondering if I should go in and set up my chair, alone like an iceberg that floated into warm waters.
I walked to where the front row would be, and set up my chair. And I sat down. My eldest came over to ask if she could help her friend run the bake sale table. My youngest came over to ask if she could play with her friends.
So I sat there alone in that gym full of bad dance club noise – and I waited.
You see, the movie didn’t start until 7:00 pm.
I sat there and I remembered how I loved the school gym when I was in school. And I wished I had a basketball or a soccer ball to goof around with. But I was too shy to ask. After about fifteen minutes – a tall gym teacher came over to see why I was sitting in an empty gym full of bad dance club noise all alone.
“We’re early”, I smiled and said.
But my ears were burning red. I was a bit embarrassed. And this forty eight year old systems engineer did not know what to do.
So I sat there and waited some more.
Finally, an hour later, other parents started to arrive. They were each hauling chairs and blankets and pillows and such. I smiled as they came in. But they did not pull up a chair beside me. They sat behind me?
I didn’t recognize any of them. But I smiled and nodded. And I watched them all set up their gym floor camps behind me. At the same time, the littler kids started running up and jumping onto the stage in front of me, practicing their jumps into the safety cushions you normally find in a gymnasium.
They were having a ball.
Unfortunately I was not. I could feel the red burn on the tops of my ears.
When it was announced that the movie was about to start – in ran both of my little girls – separately – with their own friends – and each with plates full of cookies and cakes and brownies and god-knows-what-else. But they didn’t come over to me with their plates. They sat their plates down where their friends were sitting. Sitting with their plates full of cookies and cakes and brownies and what nots.
I looked around at the other parents. They all seemed to be okay with this sweets indulgence. So I sat there and smiled at my daughters. They each approached me, only to grab their blankets and pillows and return to their friends.
So I sat there alone, and watched the Karate Kid, with Jackie Chan.
It wasn’t really all that good after all.