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.

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While the Wi-Fi Deities Smile Upon Me

The dateline for this entry is the sanctuary of the Olmsted Unitarian Universalist Congregation in North Olmsted, Ohio.  Susie is here for the fall Ohio-Meadville District Junior High Youth Conference (“con,” in the in-house terminology), ArtistiCon, and I’m a sponsor for several kids from Columbus.  Wi-Fi service has been very erratic in this building, so, while the kids meet in the Morning Circle, I’m going to take advantage of not having to share the service, and type this entry.

We’re in quite a beautiful building.  This was a last-minute location for the conference, since the larger church where it was supposed to be was unable to accommodate it I will post exterior pictures in a later entry this weekend, but I am quite proud of the one I took last night.  I was in the sanctuary (where the adults sleep–sanctuary takes on an additional meaning this weekend) staking out a place to sleep, and took this picture of the stained glass window above the church’s front door.

celebrating its 175th year this year.

This conference was a welcome retreat for me as well.  Work was hell yesterday.  My co-worker has permanently moved to another section, so my workload has doubled, and it seemed I could get very little done without constant telephonic interruption–both my cell phone, and the one on my desk.  I’m wondering if, on some level, I consciously decided to “forget” to bring the charger for my cell phone when I packed for this con.  The cell reception here (at least for Revol customers) is spotty, and I didn’t want to drain what battery power I do have hanging onto a signal.  So the cell phone is shut off and buried in the bags of stuff I brought.
The kids are as full of energy, as always.  This conference is about half the size it usually is, and Susie is a little disappointed that her friends from Heritage Universalist Unitarian Church (“where the ‘Universalist’ comes first,” their pastor, Rev. Bill Gupton, is fond of pointing out) in Cincinnati weren’t able to come, but she seems to have made friends with some girls whom I’ve not seen before.
Scenes from the Opening Circle.

And the adults congregate in the sanctuary.  (Since the
service will be here tomorrow morning, we have to be
even more on the ball about “clean[ing] up [our] own
damn shit” than our charges do.
I had “night angel” duty last night.  I walked around the church, making sure the rooms where the kids were staying had doors that were at least cracked open, making sure nobody was two to a sleeping bag, etc.  My shift was 3-5 a.m., so I grabbed some shuteye in a pew a little after midnight.  This is the first time I’ve slept in a pew (horizontally, anyway), and it was a little uncomfortable, but I’m rested.  One of the benefits of narcolepsy is the ability to sleep anywhere, where you want to or not.
Between breakfast and the Morning Circle, I heard some of the kids on the piano and the guitar.  As I came down to eat breakfast, three or four were in the hallway with their guitars, doing a decent cover of “Folsom Prison Blues” (although why the narrator, who “shot a man in Reno,” would be in a California penitentiary is something I’ve never understood), and when I began typing, I heard some of the kids in the other room singing “Imagine” with a good piano accompaniment, and then the pianist (not sure if it was the same one) did a damn near perfect rendition of “Maple Leaf Rag.”
I have the sanctuary to myself, except for a woman who is fast asleep on a big, queen-sized air mattress that just barely fits in the aisle.  If you just glanced at the inside of this sanctuary and didn’t know the context of this week’s events, you’d swear you were looking at news footage of the evacuation centers churches and schools set up in their common areas after floods or brush fires.  All we need is the Red Cross to be here serving us tepid coffee and stale donuts.