This weekend was the annual fundraiser for my kids' school. The woman who had run the fundraiser for the past few years was out of the country, and because I have not an ounce of common sense, I went right ahead and volunteered to chair the damn thing.
Now usually, it's a pretty low key affair, held the week before Christmas. There is a huge amount of preparation on everyone's part, and we all just brace ourselves as best we can for a few hours of what I like to call "mandatory parenting". Show up with a hot dish, the kids sing, we eat food, we buy things at the silent auction as is expected of us, then everyone dashes out ASAP to go get drunk in their sweatpants in the privacy of their own home.
And of course, I had a better idea. Because I am an idiot.
Which is how we ended up holding a Renaissance Fair on Saturday, with me at the helm. And Sweet Jesus, did we hold a Renaissance Fair.
To begin with, we have a crowd of parents who are creative, enthusiastic, artistic, and bendy. Lotta yoga-ing and pilates-ing and Spirit of the Dancing going on up in here. We are no strangers to drum circles. I am not the only derby girl on the phone tree. It's a solid group of peeps who do not shy away from scarves and flowy pants and head wreaths, even if just for a trip to the grocery store. So when I said "Renaissance Fair", well, they really picked up what I was laying down.
I got swept up in the enthusiasm, and then the wave crested, and damned if that didn't happen about a week too early. In the days leading up to the event, I was getting more and more stressed out, merely because I was getting more and more exhausted. The questions just never stopped. The suggestions and corrections and feedback and criticism were never-ending. My confidence began to falter. And then crumble. Because why shouldn't it all go straight to hell? I was talking to parents on Monday that didn't realize - despite numerous conversations and emails and phonecalls and newsletters and sign-up sheets and two all-school meetings - that there was an event on Saturday. Yes, this Saturday. YES YOU HAVE TO BE THERE. HAVEN'T YOU HEARD OF MANDATORY PARENTING? Never mind that they had a booth to supply and run, and costumes to come up with, I started to panic that some people didn't realize that this shit was happening in 5 days. And then people wanted to change what they were doing, or add things, or ask questions, or get clarification or..... let's just say I stopped answering my phone and gave myself a one hour waiting period before responding to emails, so that my husband could peel me off the ceiling where I was clinging to the fan and sobbing.
On Thursday afternoon, when a mom asked me jokingly if she could change her booth idea and just do something completely different, I told her she could do whatever she wanted during the festival - and then she could go straight to hell. "Straight to hell" is a quote. It is what I shouted at her as I climbed into my car to drive three kids to various after-school programs, where I would wait for them in the car while responding to emails on my phone and feeding a baby and paying the mortgage because I FORGOT ABOUT THE HOUSE. hOWEVER, while it was all in good fun on Thursday, when another mom called me on Friday to tell me earnestly that she really was changing her plans for her booth and instead of making capes, she was bringing live fish to the event to give away, I was not amused. But hey, our beloved Alice was won during a festival at the Go Fish booth, so what the hell. Bring the fish. Bring chicks! Bring cute baby farm animals of all varieties as a matter of fact. WE'LL SELL GOATS THEY ARE SO HOT RIGHT NOW.
I was kind of losing my mind at that point anyway, so I really didn't have far to go when I bottomed out after that call. It's my own fault. I offered to do this, after all. But why? Why did do this? Why does anyone volunteer to do ANYTHING EVER? As I stood in line at Costco with two carts of Faire Food, or in the kitchen baking 75 cupcakes for the festival because only one other mother had signed up to help with food, I was asking myself that very question: What is it, exactly, that compels me to volunteer?
It's not the OCD - that part of my personality that led to me cutting out 150 cloth napkins from old t-shirts and sheets at 11pm the night before the event.
And it's not the ADD - the part of my personality that led me to walk - nay, run - in circles around the event for 5 fucking hours in a floor-length velvet gown from the 50's - the one that I bought at a yard sale and wore to homecoming in 1992.
And it certainly isn't my fine-tuned organizational skills and go get 'em attitude. I don't have those.
No, what leads me to do this, to volunteer time and time again, is a glorious combination of being a total control freak, and having very grand visions. Grand visions, glittering and golden, so close that I can reach out and touch them, that do not always translate into an actual thing. And I never realize that the bright light up ahead is actually a train, until it is just a moment too late.
So we had an event, and I made cloth napkins and wore an old dress and I didn't cry. The kids danced, and recited, and made pinwheels and headwreaths and climbed in a cardboard castle and pulled up the drawbridge, and waved balloon swords and ate cupcakes and teetered around on stilts. It was great. But more importantly, it is over.
At the end of the night, as I stood alone in the rain outside of the church hall waiting for my ride, next to my two garbage cans full of trash, still in my velvet gown and head wreath, with the parish cat Rascal rubbing against my ankles and everyone else long gone, I could finally relax. I did it. I survived and the event happened and everyone seemed to have fun. I was on top of the world. Walking on air.
At that moment, the outside lights shut off.
And I was left standing in the dark, my dress covered in cat fur and my mind wrestling with the sudden realization that I had to pee, and the bathrooms were locked. So naturally, I headed off to find a dumpster or a tree or something equally discrete for a woman in a floor length evening gown to pee in out of doors in the pouring rain at 10 o'clock at night behind a church.
How far the mighty have fallen.
5 hours ago