This past week Kevin and I made our son's dream come true. We took Keller to Atlanta to a lecture by Dr. Zahi Hawass, the world's leading Egyptologist, a rock star-in-training. He came, he heard, he met, he conquered.
It was a challenge for sure, but an opportunity we just couldn't pass up. Yes, we were going to have to scramble with our jobs/work schedules to make it happen. Yes, we were going to have to intrude upon our relatives. Yes, we were going to have to come up with the money somewhere to pay for gas, meals, tickets etc. And yes, we would have to pull our son out of school on a day when his class would be celebrating the end of quarterly tests. Dreams are not always practical...
Unlike her brother, Cyre does not share Keller's love for all things ancient and Egyptian and decided to stay back. Thankfully our good friends were only too glad to keep her for the day and night. We dropped her off at school, took her things to the neighbors, gassed up the car and hit the road. In what seemed like no time, we arrived in Atlanta, ready to be entertained.
With a few spare hours open, we met with Justin and took him to lunch. Justin turns 24 in a few days and we're happy he's made it so far. Though we didn't get to spend as much time with him as we'd like, we are glad to spend any time at all and hope to have him back in Charlotte. He was kind enough to take us to the Fox Theatre to buy our tickets. We were really looking to kill time and didn't think it could possibly sell out. We were wrong.
Before the show, we decided to grab a coffee at the hotel across the street. Keller was donning a coat jacket (seersucker to be exact) and decided he should use his best manners and act "fancy". He held my arm, said hello to fellow patrons, wished strangers a "good day", and even used his napkin. I think I may buy him a few more jackets! We needed to kill more time and cruised up and down the street looking in shop windows, discussing ancient civilization and generally being geeky.
We arrived at the doors a few minutes early to discover an already large crowd gathering. "It's a total geekfest" was my first reaction. People of every age were there, books in hand, ready to meet the great Hawass. I was sort of nervous, unsure of what to expect, sort of Dorothy and gang just before they meet the great and powerful Oz. Seating was open and we made sure to be at the front of the line to get a good seat.
Keller had made a sign "We Love You Zahi Hawass" with lots of hyrogliphics (sp?), a special book entitled "Nile De-Nile" ("it's a joke; get it?") and some extra images just in case he was bored/inspired. While standing in line to get our seating, a little girl and her mom wanted to know how long Keller had been studying ancient Egypt, like it was the most normal thing to ask a kid. Not "how long have you been into legos" or "what's your favorite xbox game". A girl after his own heart!
Turns out Beatrix is not only adorable, but equally versed in ancient Egypt, Dinosaurs, Shakespeare, Opera and the Terra Cotta warriors. Hello!!!!! A female version of our son. If only she lived in Charlotte...Beatrix and her family grabbed seats behind us but before long, she and Keller were sharing a seat, comparing Egypt books, drawing pictures and holding a conversation most 40-somethings can't hold.
Beatrix's parents (who met at a poetry slam) are artistic, creative and totally unassuming. Home-schooling their daughter has turned out to be a huge success and it made me think I should look for other home-schoolers in town. They are members of the Hy Museum and take Beatrix to events, readings and lectures on a regular basis. She's just the sort of kid you know you'll be reading about one day who has written a great novel, or will have an art exhibit in New York at a ridiculously young age. Again, a girl after Keller's own heart.
The lecture was surprisingly interesting, engaging and funny. Hawass is the first Egyptian archeologist to have discovered anything of any value in the past century. All other major discoveries have been courtesy of foreigners. For this reason alone, Hawass is an absolute rock star in his own country. He's also versed in several languages and extremely media savvy which helps him attract worldwide media attention with every discovery. I think if he discovered he had suddenly developed a case of gout, that would attract attention too.
Along with being a bit of a smart-ass (he retold the story of discovering a new tunnel under a villager's home and when his assistant asked what he first saw he replied "I see shit"; it was apparently under what would have been the bathroom) Hawass is also extremely generous. One lucky little girl who had apparently been emailing Hawass was invited on stage. After finding her parents in the audience, he personally invited them to Egypt on his dime. I told Keller he'd better get busy!
Keller and Beatrix shared a few more laughs while waiting in line to get the great doctor's autograph. Thinking they might email each other, I asked Lynne if Beatrix ever emailed. Before I could grab a pen, Lynne whipped out Beatrix's personal card with the title "Communicator -in-training". After patiently standing in an over-zealous crowd for almost 45 minutes, it was almost time to meet the great and powerful Oz. It was late and the theater staff were a bit punchy and pushing everyone around. It was a total high-tension assembly line with one guy grabbing the book, another shoving fans in front of the table, another directing Hawass to sign, another grabbing the book out from under him and the last guy pushing people out the door.
I was worried Keller wouldn't get a chance to say anything personal, let alone talk to the guy. As we reached the front of the line, the book was grabbed, Keller was shoved and he was going to miss his chance. I took Keller's handwritten book and made sure the assistant knew it was a gift to Hawass to keep. At that point, the man himself took a minute to thank Keller, admire his sign and suggested Keller email him. Mission accomplished.
Could a trip to Egypt be in our future? Possibly. I considered starting a fund drive to raise money to send him there. Is that just too pushy? Can that dream wait? We'll keep you posted.
In the meantime, Keller is working on a new anthem and says "We will, we will, rock you!"