We haven't really lived here that long. In this town, ten years is, well, nothing. Some towns are like that. All of California, for example, is not. Virginia, well. Virginia likes its history. That's okay. We like history and we like Virginia too. But it can make a difference, how long you've been in a place, and we've been in our town only ten years and at Cal's school much less than that. Field Day, which happens at Callum's school every year on the first Saturday in May, was 122 years old this year.
Let that sink in for a moment.
I told you it was a Big Deal.
My initial recollection of Field Day was long before Callum was a student at his school. A long ago spring, sitting in my neighbor's yard, as some face-painted kids scampered down the street. My neighbor Jean called out, "Hey, were you at Field Day?!" (she's never afraid to talk to kids), and there you are. Field Day meant wound up boys, face paint and (likely) sugar. Turns out, I wasn't far off! When Callum switched schools, three years ago now, as a new family we were invited to Field Day and welcomed to our new school family with open arms. It's a lovely feeling really. Fortunately, Callum had friends at the school already, so he was off and running while his introverted parents wandered around somewhat bewilderedly. Not much has changed really, but let me tell you more about Field Day.
The entire football field is set up with game and bounce houses (And not the trifling pre-school bounce houses either; these were the super-deluxe bounce houses...grownup ready.) Rimming the Midway (home to the bounce houses and kids games) are food tents, and steps away from the food tents is an SPCA tent and a garden center. Various areas within the school each have their own purpose. The Refectory (the school's cafeteria) houses a bazaar-style gift shop, one of the gyms is home to a giant garage sale. There's an art show and antiques and refurbished furniture for sale. During the day, students perform plays and participate in a Variety Show. In my limited experience none of this changes from year to year, and that's good. Each year has a new theme (Our first year was Wild West, this year was World's Fair), but there are things about Field Day that remain the same year in and year out, and knowing you can count on them is a good good thing.
Like the lemons with the peppermint stick. That's a tradition you can count on.
My personal traditions have always included floppy hats, warm-weather skirts and lots of sunscreen. Not this year. This year it was chilly, and this mist turned to rain as we drove from our house to school. We dropped Callum off and headed straight to Walgreens to get an unbrella. I only got my camera out later in the afternoon. Things felt different under leaden skies, but no less fun. It was harder to run into the people you rarely see all year (that's something I always count on Field Day for!), and I'm sure fewer sno-cones were consumed (Although maybe not. These are kids we're talking about.)
By far the best part of the day comes at the end. Everyone gathers around the Pit (the large concrete area where Middle School boys are forever playing a game called Pit Ball) with the promise of prizes, but first comes the Faculty Follies. Chororegraphed by the school's Dance Master, the faculty entertain everyone. What else can I say besides it's delightful? I never would have seen my English teacher dancing to "Boom Boom Pow," but now Callum can say he has. After the Follies comes the raffle, with its oft-repeated reminders that you must have your ticket to claim your prize and not to sit in the aisles so that the winners can travel up them. The prizes are great. Sea kayak, Kindle fire, Dr. Dre headphones, Stand-up paddleboards. Pretty awesome stuff. Every year someone has their named called, only to discover that they don't have their ticket. Every year several names are called before a prize is claimed. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
At the very end comes one last tradition. Once the final prize is claimed there's a count down and everyone tosses their unclaimed tickets up into the air, carpeting the floor of the pit with a sea of white. It's a joyous, exuberant moment, filled with delight. We drove by later that evening, and it was as if nothing had ever happened that day. Everyone works hard to make the day possible and to clear the whole thing all away.