Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Odyssey

Over the weekend, Son-Two participated in his fifth Odyssey of the Mind competition. He's been an avid OMer since seventh grade--almost always on the "structure" team, whose goal is to produce a balsa wood structure (to specific criteria--criteria different and a little more difficult each year) capable of holding more weight than the next team's. This was no problem at this year's regional competition (which blessedly has been held in our own school for the past two years), since there was no other structure team in his division. They were guaranteed a place at the State competition just by virtue of showing up.

The guaranteed spot did nothing to dissuade any of the team from staying at school until nine or ten each night last week, putting the finishing touches on the structure as well as polishing their skit (another requirement). This year's skit had to include a "special effect." Son-Two's team chose to make one of the girls on the team disappear in a box created from plans they found on the Internet. The night before the competition, Son-Two was pretty sure the box was going to collapse on stage and humiliate them all. Instead, it worked perfectly--so perfectly in fact that the small crowd gasped and Son-Two's team was approached all afternoon by perfect strangers wanting to know how they'd done it.

Despite gasp-inspiring special effects, OM isn't really audience-friendly. The individual performances/tests are held in small classrooms throughout whatever school the competition's being held in--there is little or no seating and, in fact, even standing room is at a premium. The other part of the competition is "spontaneous" in which only the members of the team can even enter the room with the judges. After a (long) break for lunch, there is usually some sort of "entertainment" while the judges tabulate their scores and then there are the awards. There are often gaps of several hours between the different "events." Gaps spent aimlessly wandering the halls, an activity which I got plenty of in my own high school years, thanks very much.

The second or third year Son-Two was in OM, Daughter-Only was begging me for weeks before the competition to go along. I kept telling her she would be bored and that I didn't think it was a good idea. She kept begging and then she put together a six page packet explaining in words and pictures why it was so important to her to go. All incredibly well thought out and convincing. My favorite part, though, was when, in her opening paragraph, she referred to OM as Oblivion Minds. She was only eight or so at the time and I suppose it's just as impressive that she knew (and could spell) the word Oblivion as it would've been had she actually gotten it right.

I let her go and I can't help thinking it's significant that she hasn't asked to go again. I haven't gone the past two years either. Son-Two seems genuinely not to care whether I'm there or not--he's so over his mother showing up places...not to mention he'd barely get to see me anyway.

I'm kind of sorry I missed it this year, though. The marching band, who was in charge of the concession stand, burned some popcorn, setting off the smoke alarms and causing the building to be temporarily evacuated. I always miss the good stuff.

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