Jeff was looking at our local newspaper intensely, and then said to me "All they did was stick some pictures on the walls!" It took me a moment to comprehend that he was studying the background of some pictures of the Spring Fair at the other elementary school down the road. Jeffrey joined me this year in my annual participation in the Decorating Committee for his school's Spring Fair. The other committee members bring their children but they just run around and entertain themselves, while Jeff brought along sketches of his ideas and worked hard on constructing the decor that would transform his school into a tropical jungle, which was this year's theme. He was really into it. The committee was mostly the same as last year when it was a castle theme, a group of women dedicated to making this the best one yet.
The night before the fair is when we put it all together. We got there a little bit later than the others, and when I walked up they all cheered "Hurray! Mindy's here!" and I felt pleased that they had recognized my brilliant creative talents in such a short time, and were probably counting on my skills to put together the waterfall we had planned.
"You can put up the signs!" OK, so they had recognized my more obvious natural ability of being able to reach high places. I can do that. They assigned a couple of high school girls to help me. They were there I think to get community service hours, maybe for NHS acceptance or something like that, but I thought it was sweet that they knew where everything was located from when they were elementary students there, probably not all that many years ago.
We worked for hours, alongside of all the other people getting things ready that evening. There was a group trying to get the cotton candy machine to work, and it somehow malfunctioned and filled the entire school lobby with a thick, sweet candy smoke. The principal was in distress over this, and didn't even laugh at my joke about too bad it wasn't a candy theme, and could I get fat from second-hand cotton-candy inhalation.
Dinner was provided by a nice local restaurant, and I sat and ate with one of the women on the committee. I noted that I think I've put more effort into this than decorating the rooms in my own house. She wondered if anyone even noticed the decorations. Dani, our committee leader, came by and said that the other school down the road had trouble getting enough participation to put on their own spring fair, and had asked to combine with ours, but was turned down because this school was so into it, we didn't need to do that. Maybe it's because the decorations are so good.
The place was abuzz with all these people working on it, cheerfully and with a sense of purpose. I kind of wondered what that purpose was, exactly. It is largely about fund-raising. Heather coordinates the silent auction and Sian does the bake sale, where parents donate items and then buy them back again at the fair. It kinda seems like a whole lot of effort could be saved if they just somehow taxed everyone and got it over with, but I guess that's missing the point.
That point would be what I saw happening around me that evening and the next day at the fair itself. Just a whole bunch of people, united only by their job of teaching or parenting the children who attend this particular school, all interacting and cooperating with each other. And each time that happens it is like a tiny contribution towards building the elusive concept called community. Which is worth even more than money, in my opinion.
There are probably fancier schools out there that put on better fairs than ours, although unless they have a direct descendant of Michelangelo they couldn't possibly do more elaborate decorations. But I think that this one turned out just wonderful. The waterfall turned out very nice. I'm going to help again next year (my last one of these) but I might try to recruit someone to help that happens to be slightly taller than me.