Fifth grade promotion is still a little over a month away for my son, but I had mine today. I got up early and made breakfast for a couple hundred of my closest friends, just like I have for the past five years. On the walk up to the school, I tried to remember each Pancake Breakfast as a separate event. Six years is a long time. When I first started, I was the parent of a kindergartner, and I stood where I was told to stand and did what I was told to do. There was no room for improvisation. I had been to my share of pancake breakfasts. I had watched my father work the grill for the Y Indian Guides for many years back in my youth. I had some idea of what I was getting myself into.
Now I was one of the old guys. I listened patiently to a few of the new dads insisting that it would be easy to do a batch of blueberry pancakes right alongside the regular ones. I tried to be supportive. After all, I knew after today it was all their show, and my opinion was primarily useful as advice. My experience told me that keeping up with our steady and somewhat ravenous customer base would be difficult if we were trying to be too clever. I tried this out on the fresh faces of the dads at the grill. "Oh come on," they opined, "Let's give it a shot."
The blueberry pancakes were a hit. They also caused a monumental griddle-jam, causing many of our patrons to wait, plates in hand, while we caught up with the demand.
In the end, I know that it is a fundraiser for a school, and not a restaurant. I wasn't hoping to increase my tips, I was hoping to keep everyone fat and happy. I found myself at the counter, serving and smiling, keeping things moving. It made sense to me that the MC of the variety show would end up doing customer service, and for just short of three hours, I kept my third grade volunteers busy dishing up eggs, sausage, and the ubiquitous pancakes.
Over the past six years I have hauled pumpkins, pulled weeds, built planter boxes, pulled more weeds, painted, fixed, changed, and maintained the parts of my son's school that needed it whenever I could spare the time from the school where I work every day. I did it with the help of a like-minded group of dads who found ways to be a part of their kids' life. I did it for the chance to give back, since the thing I always wish I had in my own classroom is parental involvement.
I had at least four different people ask me today if I was going to miss "it". The simple answer is "yes". The more complex version would include a list of the things that I chose to gripe about while I worked alongside other dads with similar gripes. I will miss that too. And I know that middle school isn't a magical place that gets by without any connection to mom and dad. I am sure I will find myself knee-deep in that hoopla before too long. For now, however, I will take a moment to reflect on all those pancakes and all those pumpkins and all those weeds. Au revoir.