The kids were treated to a pizza party and dance at the Hammerstein Friday night. With the changes made to the performance schedule the timing of the party was moved up an hour, making our time at Madame Tussauds necessarily brief.
The buses took us back to the Hammerstein where the kids got their instructions for the party and dance before heading inside for a night of fun and frivolity. We adults were left to our own devices for dinner.
I was fully prepared and more than willing to find some hole-in-the-wall joint to enjoy a nice, quiet meal by myself. The dad I sat next to on the bus had other ideas. He, apparently, was not prepared and willing to do the same. Two rows in front of us Mrs. Miller and Mrs. Isch were discussing where they’d like to go. They spotted us and asked if we’d like to join them. My row-mate said he’d like that. The two moms recruited a third mom before I could reply. Not wanting to be rude, I reluctantly agreed as well.
Now, I had nothing against these folks. In the four years of following the three Black children on the lighted stage, the Dwenger parents had been nothing but nice to me. Most of them would say “Hi” or nod to me. None of them had ever been rude. For all of that, I still didn’t know these people, would never truly know them, and would be done with them after Abby’s graduation. It just wasn’t in my nature to join in with a group of people I didn’t know. And yet, here I found myself a few minutes later holding the door for them at TGI Friday’s.
Friday’s was just down at the corner from the Hammerstein. Again, it wasn’t a place I would have chosen, but I was already committed to joining these people. Much to my surprise, the dinner wound up being rather enjoyable. The meal itself was forgettable. The conversation was great.
The two moms who hoodwinked me into joining them were determined to get the dad and me to talk. They started on the dad. He told them about his daughter and his job. They asked a few probing questions about his occupation before setting their sights on me. They knew I was with Abby and Maggie. They were curious about what I did.
They nearly jumped out of their seats when I told them I worked at Edy’s Ice Cream. I nearly fell backwards in my seat at their reaction.
“Do you know Andy Beltz?” asked Mrs. Miller.
“Yeah, I do,” I replied. “He’s one of my best friends at work.”
“Oh, my gosh. What a small world,” Mrs. Isch said, looking at Mrs. Miller.
“We know Andy and Christi well,” Mrs. Miller said. “I’m the principal of their son’s school and Ann here is a teacher there. We just love their little boy.”
And that was all it took. The barrier I put up to keep people away was crumbling one bit after another. Pretty soon the five of us were talking about work, the kids, vacation destinations and any old thing we could think of. It was an enjoyable time that was abruptly interrupted by the sound of ringtones coming from our phones.
Mrs. Miller got a phone call from her son. The rest of were receiving text messages. I got one from Maggie that was short and to the point: “This party sux.” As soon as I read that message another one arrived from Abby. “This party sux.” “Oh, boy,” I said.
The others were all hearing the same thing. A few tables away another group of parents were getting messages from their kids. This was not looking good.
“Okay, we’re just down the street,” Mrs. Miller said into her phone. “We’ll be there in a few minutes.”
“Let me guess,” said Mrs. Isch. “They want us to come back.”
“Yes, they do,” answered Mrs. Miller in an exasperated tone. “None of our kids are happy right now.”
The five of us headed towards the exit. We passed several tables of Dwenger moms and dads. They were all hearing the same thing and were also preparing to leave. I texted the girls to let them know that we were on our way. “Good,” they both texted back.
All of the Dwenger kids were in the lobby of the Hammerstein waiting on us to get back. The adults located their kids and listened to their stories about the party.
Maggie and Abby were crazy with disgust. They were disgusted with the way the dance was going. The overarching theme was oversexualization. The music, they felt, was disgusting and inappropriate for high school kids. Several boys and girls were engaging in simulated sex acts. The Dwenger kids just wanted to eat pizza and dance. The pizza wasn’t very good and the dancing was disgusting. They were not happy.
The evening ended much earlier than anticipated. The kids were all abuzz on the bus about how bad the party had been. They were ready to get back to their rooms to take advantage of the remaining time before lights out.
Back at the hotel lobby I got into a conversation with a few of the parents about the night’s events. The stories they shared mirrored the one told by Abby and Maggie.
“I’m disappointed for the kids,” said one mom. “At least they had the sense to call us to come back early.”
Another mom agreed, adding, “They’re a good group of kids. Thank goodness for their Catholic upbringing and education.”
Just then one of the girls came running and squealing through the lobby. One of the boys was hot on her tail.
“And that, my friends, is the definition of perfect timing,” I said.