In sixth grade you got to be a cadet. Cadets got to fold and unfold and fly the flag every day. They got to announce the bus arrivals over the loud speaker. But their most important job was ensuring the other elementary school kids only crossed the street when it was safe and supervised.
I loved joining things. I didn’t always love the work part though. That was the same year I was so bad at the viola that my orchestra teacher made me hold my viola on my lap during the concert for two of the songs. I was GREAT at fake playing and let’s face it the other kids weren't exactly a bunch of Shoji Tabuchis.
I couldn’t bring myself to tell my parents before the recital so when the time came I put my viola on my knee as instructed and bawled my face off for the rest of the concert. My parents had been on me to practice more since I think that viola was about $4568998.29 to rent but they were so sweet that night. They agreed with me that embarrassing a super early bloomer with a VERY unstable emotional threshold was just plain mean.
Point being, I have always tended to like ideas more than realities.
When the time came to be a cadet I was so excited. I remembered my sisters telling me about the badges you get to wear and how there was a whole closet full of rain coats and hats you got to choose from in the event of inclement weather. Safety stops for no one. Not even Mother Nature.
There were lieutenants and captains. Captains had way more responsibility and were highly respected. Usually you had to EARN that position through exemplary work but for the first round they just chose alphabetically. My last name was Allen so I was automatically a captain.
I don’t really remember the instructions and duties of this position because after they said “Crescent Allen will be Captain” I flew away to a place where I was famous for singing AND acting AND running the best God damn unit of crossing guards this side of the Wisconsin River.
Much like the viola I didn't really do that well. Not only did I not do well…. I did not well FAST. You needed three demerits to be kicked off the force and I had two the first week. I know one of them had to do with me talking to boys instead of making sure a pack of first graders didn't get hit by buses. (Talking to boys has been getting me in hot water for years but just try to stop me!)
Whoa! You know what I just remembered??? The teacher that ran the cadets was the OTHER orchestra teacher! I CALL CAHOOTS! They must have just been jealous of my uni-brow and imperfect complexion.
I think I made it another week before getting my final demerit bumping me down to a mere lieutenant status. I was heartbroken. I now had to answer to my best friend who in the same short amount of time had been SO great at cadet-ing that she was promoted to Captain. I wished her well but wished the teacher NOT very well. Sorry to talk so tough but that’s just the truth.
The year went by and my passion for flag folding had faded. I enjoyed announcing the bus arrivals but only because I knew everyone got to hear my voice over a microphone which has always been a hobby of mine. At the end of the year there was an all-district cadet picnic. The only real reason I stuck it out. There were prizes…so many prizes. I remember winning three pair of fluorescent socks of my choosing for a bean bag toss. But that was only the beginning. After lunch and the games there was an assembly in the auditorium. Every elementary school was there. There were two giant prizes based on actual merit and performance. A trip to Noah’s Ark Water Park and a trip to Washington DC. Captain Deanna (my best friend) won the trip to DC. She deserved it. I believe safety went up 60% while she was in office.I was happy for her.
Then there was a raffle drawing that every single cadet in Stevens Point, Wisconsin was entered in. There were at least 600 kids there. A simple drawing from a hat for a brand new Schwinn 12 speed bike and there would be only one winner. I won the bike. I WON THE BIKE! EAT IT ORCHESTRA LADIES! I remember shaking so hard as I came up to accept the award that I was sure I was going to faint/barf, a bad habit of mine at the time. I had to stand up there for the singing of the national anthem and I have to tell you….I've never been so proud to serve my country as I was that day. Maybe I didn't earn or deserve that bike but dammit I won it randomly and THAT’S the real lesson in all of this.
When we got back to our school I stopped by my locker and got my viola case, got my bike off the bus and wheeled it over to where my other 12 speed was. I then attempted to balance the giant rectangular case on my handlebars of the old bike while I used my other hand to steer the extra bike next to me. It wasn't easy but it was the most triumphant ride I've ever taken.
My dad just happened to be driving by and pulled up next to me and had that face I've seen him have a million times over the course of my life...…the “I’m not even sure how to address what you are doing right now but it looks dangerous and stupid and completely NOT thought through” instead he said “Crescent. Where did you get another bike?” I held my head high and said “I won it Dad. I won it for being a cadet.” He started laughing and said “well good for you CT! Do you want me to put it in the trunk and take it home?” I declined the offer and kept on riding….wiggling dangerously down the street into the summer.