An Unexpected Shout Out for MLK

20140217_120113Any parent or teacher can tell you that most public buildings have fabulous acoustics.

In fact, the more important the work you’re supposed to accomplish in a professional building, the better you’ll probably be able to hear that busload of third graders trying to outshout each other in the hallways while their hapless instructors endeavor to impart a civics lesson.

This was not something I always knew. Back in the day, I was one of those parents who was mortified when my little people would exclaim, in their best outdoor voices, about the anatomical details of buxom, braless statues captured, seemingly, in mid flight from their marble pedestals.

On a Martin Luther King, Jr. day once a while back, I had dropped off the younger kid at daycare and attempted to shove my first grader through the doors of his classroom before realizing that school was officially closed for that particular holiday, and that I probably should pay more attention to the district calendar.

Partially because I was embarrassed at not having known whether school was actually in session and partially because I had no idea how I was going to get any work done without sticking my six year-old in front of Sponge Bob all day long, I thought we’d have a little mommy-son civil rights celebration.

If any public building in particular has great acoustics, our statehouse, with its august marble floors, walls and pillars, doubles as our official state echo chamber. If anyone wants to point to the relative inability of our state government to get anything done more important than consider the designation of an official state salamander, all a legislator has to do is stand in the center of the place, under that majestic dome, and whisper “well duh.”Idaho State House Rotunda

I’m pretty sure the tiniest sound reverberates to all corners of the building.

And here I thought Sponge Bob was a distraction.

Anyway, I was all full of motivation to instill a little civics lesson and avoid an afternoon of mind numbing Patrick-and-Squidward-isms, so I hauled my kid to the Statehouse to take in the public festivities.

Early in their lives, both kids learned that if I want them to behave, they can leverage that for pretty much anything they want. At six years old, my older kid still had modest expectations, but the concession stand was conveniently located just inside the ground level entrance with displays of ginormous suckers, ropes of licorice and glass cases full of gumdrops.

Jack and I settled on a blue sucker roughly the size of his fist, before edging our way through the crowd to see the program.

There was a rousing Baptist choir, some Native American dancers, and a stirring solo rendition of “We Shall Overcome” which had more than one crowd member in tears.

I was hunkered next to my kid, who was less enthralled by the performances than he was by his giant blue sucker. The thing had hardly diminished in size, despite the fact that it had by now deposited a good deal of blue goo all over his face, hands and shirt.

“Isn’t this great? Look at the drummers. Did you see that?” I said, in that age-old parental refrain meant to engage a semi-disinterested kid in something other than a dancing cartoon character or a blue sucker.

Despite my efforts, my child remained focused on the candy. About the time I realized a coating of blue spit from a ginormous confection could pose a problem, he got a notion to squirt back through the crowd. I elbowed my way after him, then spent the rest of our visit trying to lure him into appreciating our fine statehouse art and interpretive displays paying tribute to agriculture and industry and the pioneering spirit of our forefathers: very serious looking fellows who at the time probably gave about as much thought to civil rights as they did to the possibility that their austere portraits could be enhanced by my child’s blue handprint.

About the time the solo and all the other performances had wrapped up, I had elbowed my way back through the crowd with my Smurfish companion for an uplifting address from our governor.

My kid was still for about a nanosecond, allowing me an opportunity to take my attention off of him and appreciate the grandeur of the setting, the brilliant red choir robes against the white of the marble, the rainbow of tribal costumes, and the serene faces of a crowd united for one moment in rapt attention to the words of a lone speaker.

Jack stirred and I looked down to see him staring at me, eyes big and glassy, face flushed. His chest expanding with one big, slow breath.

He had worked that entire ginormous sucker through his blue-stained lips and into his mouth, where it was now stuck.

He gave a little tug to illustrate. Yup. Stuck.

Which is how I found out that a six year-old kid, even with his mouth full of sticky blue candy the size of his fist, even cradled in the arms of a mom who has shoved her way back through a crowd and is already halfway down the hall, can let out a yowl that will drown out heads of state in certain venues.

***

We’ll try to be quieter next time. Just vote. Thank you.

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Photo: Idaho Victory by Kenneth Freeman, and Statehouse Rotunda by Jim Bowen.

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