Saturday, February 6, 2010
Near the beginning of the school year, Shay came home one day and asked me to make three juggling balls for him so he could "learn to juggle and become a Jedi Juggler."
I had no idea what he was talking about.
Still, I found three old baby socks, filled them with rice and stitched them shut. I figured it would occupy him for the rest of the afternoon, until he realized juggling isn't easy.
He kept at it, though. He was determined to join the Jedi Jugglers at his school, and there was a whole list of things he had to do in order to join.
He had to juggle those balls 50 times. He did it. Then he graduated to rings.
He had to juggle rings 50 times. He did it. Then he graduated to clubs.
He had to juggle clubs 50 times. He did it. Then he became a Jedi.
I was amazed - am amazed - that he can do all of this. Once he joined the Jedis, he began staying after school once a week to work on his skills and practice for the big performance. He learned to juggle umbrellas, toilet plungers, apples... the list goes on. Not only that, but the PE teachers, Mr. Callahan and Ms. Stevens, set it up so it was a pretty exclusive club whose members had to help each other out to advance within the ranks. In order to become a member of the "Jedi Council," kids have to learn even more skills, like juggling with 4 balls and double spinning clubs. But they also have to teach a certain number of other kids to juggle, and they have to perform ten good deeds during juggling season. If you make it to the Jedi Council (Shay didn't quite get there this year), you even get to juggle fire. Seriously.
Last night we went to the school and saw these 4th and 5th grade Jedis in action. As Mr. Callahan (who was featured in a recent column of mine) explained at the beginning of the show, all of these Jedi Jugglers started from scratch, knowing only that juggling looked impossible. Each one of these kids learned to juggle, he continued, and in doing so, they learned that they can achieve the impossible if they work at it.
So true. It kinda gave me goosebumps.
The show started when a line of Jedis solemnly entered the gym while music from Star Wars played. Once they were in, the lights went out, and these kids juggled clubs, rings and balls, all with glow sticks attached. In the pitch dark.
The lights went up, and the show went on. During the course of the show, Shay juggled all sorts of objects, including soft toys, hair curlers, toilet plungers and scrubbers. Some kids juggled eggs and bread, baseball bats and umbrellas. At one point a bunch of kids rode skateboards and ripsticks up and down the length of the gym, juggling all the while. Another group juggled water balloons.
They had to work together, too. In one act, two kids juggled together. One was wearing a hat and watching while the other juggled. He would then steal the juggling balls, mid-air, and continue juggling. The other kid would take the first one's hat, and then steal the balls back. They continued on until one of them dropped the ball. The girls pictured here were the second-to-last team standing, and I have no idea how long they managed to go on for, but it was quite awhile.
At one point, they asked for 4 dad volunteers. Bart volunteered. Poor guy. The dads put on goggles and gym shirts. Then, using only their faces, they had to find three M&Ms hidden in a bowl of flour. The sons would then have to juggle the M&Ms ten times. First team to finish won. It was pretty funny.
There was another act called "Combat Juggling," or something like that. All of the kids squashed into a small area and began juggling. They were allowed to bump each other, trip each other or steal each other's juggling balls, as long as they didn't drop their own. And do you know - not a one cheated. You know how kids cheat sometimes because they want to win, but I didn't see a single kid try to stay in after he dropped a ball.
Once that was done, they called all of the Jedi alumni down from the stands to try combat juggling. The winner was a high school kid, who apparently learned to juggle all those years ago. It was so funny and fun to watch the big kids chase each other around in the ring, trying to knock each other down while juggling. And it really added to the sense of community, the fact that these super-cool high schoolers turned out for the show and stayed for the whole thing. The younger kids loved it.
The second-to-last act was the fire juggling, most of which I missed because Ainsley chose that moment to freak out and I had to leave. I returned in time to see the last few kids doing it - amazing. And then they closed with apple juggling. Each kid had two juggling balls and an apple. They had to juggle all three - while eating the apple. And as Mr. Callahan said, "We're strict. If they drop the apple, they have to pick it up and keep eating." The kids mostly managed to juggle and crunch without dropping.
And that was our evening of juggling excitement. The kids all had a lot of fun - check out Kyra's happy smile.
Of course, and this warrants a separate blog entry of its very own, we almost didn't make it to the show. Because about 30 minutes before it was time to go to school, Aidan came home crying, face covered in blood. Turns out he'd tried to jump a snow pile on his bike and he went eye first into his handlebars, cutting the corner of his eye in two places. At first I thought we'd be heading to the hospital instead of the juggling show, but once I cleaned him up - no easy feat when the cuts are right next to the eye - it looked like I could tape him shut instead. So I steri-stripped him and off we went. He has a nice black eye today, though.
And here's one last picture to close out this story: Shay and the amazing Mr. Callahan, post-show. Seriously, how do these PE teachers pull this show off every year? This is the same team that manages the Second Grade Circus, and runs the Super Spy Camps every year. I'm going to miss these guys next year - but not half as much as my kids will. Back in the States, public schools are cutting PE budgets more each year. But the skills my kids have learned from these coaches, year after year after year, the self-confidence they've found... well, I think the PE program might be one of the best programs this very good school has to offer.