Monday, February 28, 2011

Walking Wisely Weekend

Left work early Friday and arrived at North Point right at 5 pm. Soon several volunteers assembled, donned red T shirts, ate PaPaJohns pizza, and were given assignments by Sheff, the Middle School Director. Ceil and Will brought Anna and Matthew early, so they were two of the first to reach their classes. There was a problem with M’s late registration, so it was good we had extra time. By 6:15 there was a crowd waiting outside the locked West Auditorium doors.

In my position in the boy’s hallway, I never saw the crowds flow through the six lines. Thirteen hundred middle-schoolers flooded through, each with one or two parents (and often a brother or sister). The volunteer up the hall did a good job of funneling the girls left and right to their temporary classrooms, so it was easy for me to spot the stray girl or three that wandered past. Most of the boys that came through zeroed in on the directional signs, but there were plenty I needed to help. First I had to squint at their nametag to see their room number.

As the river of people slowed to a trickle, us volunteers had a little time to walk our beat and chat with one another. The volunteer at the end of the hall had a fashionably shaved head, like many NP dads. He looked familiar, and I asked him if he went to Tech. He did, but didn’t start until 83. By the next time we chatted I had figured it out: Second Ponce. I probably only knew him as a face in the crowd, or a picture in the directory. Mark Wilson. His mother went there, he said.

Matthew used the time to put on a tie and gangster hat. he didn’t care that most of his group were wearing T shirts and shorts. I had seen several people I knew. Mrs. Moran gave me a hug. Card-playing buddy Kevin led his son down the same hall Matthew was on. After the session when I checked on M one last time, Kevin was still there. Matthew was staying at his house, near the Sandy Plains Target.

Next all the small groups migrated to the East Auditorium. We kept people headed in the right direction, funneling through the correct doors, and keeping them from wandering the halls. Most were entertained by the loud music, but some got antsy when the speaker began. With all the luggage in the unlocked classrooms, kids didn’t need to be on the prowl. I saw one girl head off down a hall. I circled around, but never saw her. Twenty minutes later a female volunteer was making the rounds. She hadn’t checked a particular restroom until I asked, and sure enough, there the girl was. During Saturday night’s session the same girl came poking down the hall, saying she was going to the restroom. I directed her back to the one that was being monitored.

I left NP and headed to the Hurts around nine. Will was there helping Margaret and Hannah with her Rube Goldberg contraption/invention. Mary was downstairs helping. Haley and Elin were upstairs, and a hungry David was watching the Golf Channel. Around ten they were headed out to eat. Will and I were bushed, so we headed home.

Saturday the groups had fun on their own. Anna had stayed up till five, and later fell up to her waist in the Chattahoochee, bruising her knee. Matthew’s group played laser tag and kickball. Will had baseball practice, Ceil took a class at the Perimeter Apple store, and I did my usual housework. We watched The Right Stuff.

I went back to NP shortly after five. Some groups of kids were playing out in the big field. Employees from three different Chickfila restaurants were preparing serve 2600 sandwiches in 15 minutes. Groups massed outside like women waiting for stores to open on Black Sunday. When the doors were opened the kids entered in a relatively orderly fashion, and ate on the floor. My new buddy Mark and I guarded doors and snacked on Chickfilas. I found Anna in the throng. The Chickfila cow roamed the room, posing for pictures.

Sheff was on stage, delivering a barely discernable monologue of announcements. At one point I heard him say “Matthew Murphy”. M had gotten Sheff to announce his name! Eating on the floor, the kids were making a mess. Soon it was time for the kids to migrate to the East for “worship”. They were to all flow through the hallway near the front of the building, so the other 900 kids from Buckhead Church, Browns Bridge, and Watermark Church could enter from the other side (they were eating in other parts of the building). I helped keep the NP kids from using other doors. The only one to crash the barrier was Anna’s group leader.

My next assignment was out in the hall, since the other churches were unfamiliar with the layout. Once the music started the cleaning crew moved in and tidied up the West. Only 50 Chickfilas remained from dinner. I was able to sample the banana pudding in the Green Room, where the musicians ate (Regretfully, I passed on the tenderloin). Eventually I made my way inside, directing bathroom-goers to the back of the building.

Forty miles worth of paper streamers had been distributed to the group leaders, to be thrown during the final song. Some were flung prematurely. Sheff’s co-leader Kristen handed me a streamer to throw. The lead singer, a real big guy, mentioned between songs “Those things hurt when they hit you!” Kids were draped in streamers. High overhead a streamer hung from a speaker that hung from the ceiling. Afterward streamers were tracked outside, and back into the clean West Auditorium.

I spotted Kevin in the back, taking it all in. As several conga lines snaked past, he said Matthew was behaving himself. Afterward I went with him to meet the group outside. I could tell Matthew was having a great time.

Sunday morning I took Will up to Living Science for their 6:30 am departure. Willis Norman brought Joel. I caught up with a few people, but didn’t stay long. Parent pickup for WWW was at 10:15 in the North Point Mall parking lot. There was a huge (but orderly) traffic jam. Even without my red security shirt, Kristen recognized me. I dropped A and M off at church.

After a nap we had a late afternoon small group meeting. We left both A and M in their rooms, both deep asleep. Sunday night we had bacon & eggs while watching the Red Carpet and the Oscars.

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