Back in Columbus

Susie and I returned from Columbus around 12:30 under cloudy skies.  We left North Olmsted with our ride from Columbus a little after 10 a.m., along with Susie’s friend Eliza, who conked out before we crossed the Cuyahoga County line.  I slept on and off during the night in the pew at Olmsted Unitarian Universalist Congregation, and managed to stay awake during the ride back.  I talked with Heather, our driver, and glanced at Faye Kellerman’s Sacred and Profane from time to time.  (I’m re-reading it.  Now that the entire Peter Decker-Rina Lazarus series seems to be available on CD, I may start at The Ritual Bath and “read” them all in sequence.)

I feel fortunate that I was awake before the “official” wakeup this morning.  Drake Dunnett, who stepped in at the last minute to run this Con, informed me on the q.t. that Andrew, whom I’ve seen at every con since last year in Pittsburgh, would be doing the awakening.  And I knew what this meant.  Drake swore me to secrecy, especially around the kids.

Sure enough, around 7:30 a.m., I was clearing my bed pew, closing up and unplugging my laptop, when I heard a loud rendition of “Scotland the Brave” blatting down the hall on the other side of the sanctuary door.  Andrew’s bagpipes were accompanied by groaning and moaning wherever he went, and I followed his progress by paying attention to the Doppler effect.  I came outside to see kids burrowing deeper into sleeping bags, putting pillows over their heads, etc.  They faced the morning the same way I did, and I’m on record as saying there is no kind way of awakening someone.

Having come of age in the early 1980s, whenever I hear bagpipes, my thoughts always go to Spock’s funeral at the end of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, when Mr. Scott played “Amazing Grace” while the projectile containing Spock’s body launches into space and onto the surface of the planet just created.

Andrew finished playing his pipes once he had been to every room, and I’m sure he had to dodge some airborne shoes, socks, etc.  (At the spring conference in Columbus, Jodi the conference dean just went from room and room and screamed “WAKE UP!!!”  Susie said she was on the receiving end of a thrown slipper at one point.)

Drake is nothing if not thorough.  A few minutes after the bagpipe music ended, he sent in reinforcements.  I heard long and loud blasts from the didgeridoo that appeared prominently in last night’s talent show and worship service.  (The readings for last night’s worship were quite diverse–St. Lev Tolstoy, Robert Frost, and William Blake.)  I had never heard of or seen this instrument before (and I doubt it’s that well known, which is why I included the Wikipedia link above), but I loved the sound of it.  I imagine it’s different when you’re being awakened from a sound sleep by someone blowing it right into your ear.

Susie performed “Unhappily Ever After” by CJaye LeRose as part of the talent show, but she and her new friend Harriet really wowed ’em with a duet of “For Good,” from Wicked.  (Susie’s mom and friend Joanna performed the same duet at the ordination of Rev. Suzan McCrystal at church last fall.)

Another one of Susie’s new friends wanted to sing a solo (her original composition), but was afraid she would drop dead from stage fright before finishing the first verse.  Harriet and Susie stood behind her as moral support, and she sang her song quite well and left the stage under her own steam.  Harriet and Susie would have been all too pleased to catch her if she fainted, or to bodily push her to the microphone if she decided that she wasn’t going to perform after all.

One year, when Susie was about eight, we took her to the Columbus Symphony’s annual performance of The Nutcracker.  They sponsored a drawing for the kids–whoever won would get to conduct the orchestra while they played a medley of different holiday songs (mostly Christmas, with a token “‘Tis the Week of Hanukkah” thrown in).  Susie entered but didn’t win.  The little girl who did win was about six.  Since the conductor’s back is to the audience, her face was on a JumboTron above the orchestra, so we could see and watch her.  I was touched to see that she brought her friend (or maybe her sister) onto the conductor’s platform with her while she took the baton in hand and led the orchestra.

The closing circle took place on the church’s front lawn, and the outside temperature was in the upper 50s.  I think the hugs lasted even longer than they usually did (and that’s saying a lot!) because many of the kids were still in shorts, T-shirts, sock feet, or barefoot.  The closing circle is always an emotional time, but nowhere near as gut-wrenching as the ceremony in spring when the high school seniors bridge out of the conferences.