Each grade level was limited to a certain few topics. For Lily’s grade, it was ecology, astronomy and a third topic I can’t remember now. We went with ecology, because that seemed to offer the best chance to perform an actual experiment. Lily came up with the name “What Lights up a Worm’s Life?” and everything followed from that. She and Jen figured something out, and Jen’s moms picked up the worms they needed, as good grandmothers will, and things gradually came together.
The fair was held in her school’s multipurpose room. It was nice. Kids went in ahead of parents, and they were manning their stations when we came in.
I remember a time when Lily was a bit younger, where she studied her Pez dispenser until she figured out how it functioned, and how happy she was when she did. I wrote about it at this post, and I think it’s worth it to click over to read that one now, because this post builds on the themes of what I had written earlier. So go ahead and do that.
Lily still tends to play to us when we’re around, so we made sure we weren’t. I was working late that week, but I didn’t want to be the dad who missed the extracurricular because of work, so I made certain I got home in time to see it. I only had time to exchange my work shoes for sneakers, and, as I was a bit more dressed up than most of the folks there, I think a lot of the kids assumed I was a judge. Consequently, I got lots of explanations on static electricity, potato clocks and volcanoes.
I noticed that a lot of the participants were girls. Eyeballing it, I’d guess maybe two-thirds for third grade, and a bit less for the higher grades.
Lily carried herself well. She thinks things through very well, and she was able to explain the process she followed very lucidly. She did get a bit tetchy near the end, when, upon being asked “What does light up a worm’s life?” for the fifth time, she answered in exasperation, “I didn’t mean it literally!”
She was just there to have fun. (And, well, because it was mandatory) At one point, she and another kid were shaking their heads back and forth to whip each other with their ponytails. I asked her what her experiment sought to prove. “That it’s fun!”
She took second place in her age group. Until they called the winners, she didn’t even know it was a competition. Her grace in victory was probably the act that made me proudest. I’ve lost at contests I wanted to win. We all have, and platitudes about how “we’re all winners” are cold comfort at times like that. However, when I asked if she would pose in front of her display, she asked if her friend could pose with her. I said that I wanted to get a few pictures of just her, but that her friend could be in later pictures. When it came time for both of them to pose, Lily placed the medal around her friend’s neck and told her “You’re a winner too!” For her, it wasn’t just a bromide; it was something she really meant.
I’m happy that she did well, but I’m happier that she was kind.