At Your Next Banquet, Try a New Combination
The ending of the fall season of high school sports is upon us, and with it comes the banquets. I admit that I am not managing my very busy schedule like the Martha Stewart I want to be; however, I think the word “banquet” supposes a certain fanciness. Maybe not a dress and heels, but maybe not ripped jeans and a baseball cap either. Maybe wildflowers in Mason jars on the tables. Perhaps a program of sorts. At the very least I assumed it would be inside.
My daughter Hadley was on the cross-country team, and the banquet was outside, at a park next to an airport — one of those airports where planes the size of SUVs land.
“I thought you knew it was outside,” Jesse said, as we sat at a picnic table while I shivered in my jeans jacket.
“I probably did,” I said, watching a spider glide down its silk web. “I must’ve blocked out that part.”
A plane took off, and I watched it soar into the autumn golden hour while a gaggle of teenage girls chirped and hooted. Hadley looked content, and like she fit right in, and the wind from the airplane’s flight moved across the runway, over the park with the slides and the monkey bars, and into the picnic area, where it seemed to want to stay.
The word “banquet” also conjures up for me images of baked chicken sitting in giant tin dishes with tea candles underneath. At Hadley’s banquet, cartons of hot chocolate, coffee, boxes of pizza, and piles of chips took up two of the picnic tables. I did not complain and took two slices of cheese pizza with banana peppers — a new combination for me.
All was fine. It was a beautiful day. I was proud of Hadley and her teammates (they are state champions). But still, I was on edge. These things are not easy for me. I could blame the fact that there’s too much space for small talk, or, in this case, that I was simply freezing.
When I go to these celebrations for my children, I am reminded of a young adult novel, whose title I’ve forgotten, but the story has a father in it that struggles in similar circumstances. Call it anxiety or nervousness — whatever it is, I was relieved and grateful the author rendered the situation so truly that I didn’t feel alone. This character is who I think of every time I go to these things — which, with two very active girls, is a lot. And yes, he is afraid, but he still goes.
So I go too.
To attend is simply the beginning. Soon I begin to shift and fidget. Sometimes I say rude things like, “I need this to begin NOW.” Or, “How is this not over?” It makes for a fun event. Just ask my husband.
But the father in the story goes because it is important to his daughter and remembering this — that I am not alone and that Hadley wants me here — I have begun the habit of searching for the poetry in the situation. Blame a handful of years writing these poetry prompts. Blame Mary Oliver. Blame Dickinson. Blame all the spiders at the cross-country banquet that dusky afternoon. They were everywhere. It was like they were invited.
I have a friend who thinks spiders are a sign that the universe is telling her something —something good. Not something good like she’s going to win the lottery or have a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie every day at 4. The spiders are signs telling her she should do the thing she desires to do because she will succeed. Recently, though, her work has been treacherous, but the spiders keep coming. My friend is wondering if she got the message wrong; maybe the spiders are a warning of failure.
“Don’t kill it! Don’t kill it!” one of Hadley’s teammates yelled, grabbing onto another teammate’s leg in an effort to stop a spider smash. “She won’t hurt you!”
Immediately, I thought of Charlotte from Charlotte’s Web and wondered if the spiders that keep showing up are there to help my friend bring about something that’s too scared to emerge.
Hadley and I made eye-contact. She smiled and tilted her head slightly, a question. I smiled back and nodded, an answer.
I took a bite of pizza and decided the banana peppers provide the perfect amount of tang and crunch. “This is my new favorite combination,” I said to Jesse, before taking another bite.
This week write a poem that takes place at a banquet.
I have been a fan of Callie Feyen’s writing for quite some time but I finished this book in almost one sitting. If you have ever been in 8th grade, fallen in love, had a best friend, or loved reading, you will love this book. As the mother of an 8th grader, my other genuine hope is that my son will one day have a teacher as gifted as Callie.