By John Jericiau
This week we transferred our oldest son Devin from one Santa Monica elementary school (the closest one to our home) to another Santa Monica elementary school (the farthest one from our home). It was a hard decision, since he (and we) really loved his teacher, his classmates and their parents. Suffice it to say that the school academics did not score well with us. I don’t want to use this blog to throw anyone under the bus, so let’s just say that there was one particular person principally involved, and we just had to leave on principle.
Our new school is much larger and closer to more mansions than our old school. Devin and his Papa and I have tried hard to get up to speed this week at the new school after having missed the first two months. Devin seems to be fitting right in to a very open and loving environment. Papa and I have been trying our best to get to know the teacher, staff, and other parents. When we found out that their huge and very successful fundraising carnival was upon us, I jumped on the chance to volunteer for a stint at our class’s responsibility: the petting zoo. We realized this was going to be an epic day, since I had already promised friends of ours that we would attend their Santa Monica school’s annual carnival later in the day to support their school. The boys were very excited for the fun ahead of us.
The class parents were great. I got to meet many of them and their spouses, all of whom had Carnival name tags planted on their shirts, which made my note-taking easier on my iPhone (I make lists of parents and their matching kids to refer to later). We talked to the Principal and the Vice-Principal. We met many of Devin’s new friends and some of his old friends. It was a very successful day, and even our 37-week pregnant friend/surrogate had a good time.
Things unraveled slightly near the end, from the strong sun and the sweet sugary snacks and the sleepiness, so we decided to make a break for it before we had to decide between cotton candy and the stuffed toy. We drove the 11 minutes home to regroup. Papa wisely decided to skip Carnival 2 and go to Yoga, but the rest of us rallied and headed out.
A 6-minute drive led us to this carnival, and it was just as grand and crowded as the first. Food and rides were sprawled around the schoolyard. Dylan decorated a cupcake at our friend’s booth, Devin climbed the rock wall, and our friend/surrogate had some tacos. Dylan rode the teacups, Devin banged the hammer to test his strength, and our friend ate some more tacos. What caught the boys’ eyes, however, was a two-story tall air-filled double side-by-side stomach-to-your-throat slide.
A crowd had already gathered at this spectacle but the boys insisted on waiting the 15 minutes in the hot sun until it was their turn. They bravely climbed the rope and inflatable ladder one at a time, with the plan to wait at the top for one another and go down together. Devin led the way and reached the pinnacle first. He peeked over the edge, thought for a second, and then proceeded to yell to me at the top of his lungs “DADDY, IT’S TOO HIGH!” This made the entire crowd stop, listen and watch what happened next. Devin disappeared to the rear of the inflatable mega-balloon after I tried to coax him down from my vantage point at the base of the mountain, and by that time Dylan had reached the top and also disappeared.
After a brief discussion with the 14-year-old workers at the base of the slide, I decided it was best if I climbed the ride myself to see if I could get them to slide down with me. I used the rope to ascend, much like you would if you were climbing Kilimanjaro. The crowd watched my every move, probably because a) they were anxious to get their children on the ride, and b) I had really nice tight shorts on. When I reached the top I found both boys huddled in a corner balling their eyes out and refusing to move.
I tried the ready-set-go trick and the act-excited-and-crazy-happy trick to get them to slide down with me (and I could see a few parents taking notes), but nothing worked. There was only one way off this heap of air. I slung Devin over my shoulder and told him to hang on for dear life. I proceeded to descend slowly, using the same rope and ladder that got me up there, until we had reversed all the way to the bottom. I deposited Devin and made my way back up as quickly as I could to reach Dylan, who was ready, willing, and twenty pounds heavier than Devin. It seemed like eternity until I reached the bottom with Dylan, and we barely arrived before he slid off my back and to safety. I hadn’t even turned toward the extremely quiet crowd yet, and as I started to turn, my son ran over to me, hugged my leg, and said “Thank you for saving me, Daddy!” After I smiled and looked in his big hazel eyes, I realized what had just played out in front of 100 of our closest strangers. I looked up at the crowd just in time to hear and watch them break out in huge cheers and applause.
We’ll be back next year.