Field Trips

I hate field trips.  I’m simply not a kid at heart.

Several years ago, I brought my sons to a neighborhood birthday party for one of their little friends.  There was a bouncy house.

Normally I love bouncy houses because it gives the helicopter parents like me a chance to slip a few feet away to the adult drinks table and relax while still being able to keep a close eye on the kids, who are having a blast with friends while getting some good old-fashioned exercise.

However, this day, one of the parents tried to grab my arm.  “Come on, Lisa!” she said.  “Let’s get in!”

I recoiled.  "Yuck," I replied.  “Why?”

She gave an exasperated puff.  “Because bouncy houses are so fun!”

“Erm…no thanks,” I said. “I’ll be over here at the wine slushy table with the other sensible adults.”

She stood there for a few moments looking at me, willing me to come with her, but when she saw that I was rooted to my spot, unblinking, and that I would last longer in this staring contest stalemate than she would, she finally shrugged her shoulders and gave up on me. 

I watched as she kicked off her Birkenstocks, hiked up her Laura Ashley skirt, and ran with purpose to that bouncy house, shoving a bunch of kids aside as she hopped in.

I turned around to find my bag chair and noticed one of the other moms looking at me with admiration.  “Want to join me?” she asked.  She moved her chair a few feet to the side to make room for me and as she did, I noticed that it came with a little fold-up table attached to it, upon which she had set her own adult drink.

I had found my person for the afternoon.

No, I don’t enjoy field trips. 

I’d much rather be in my air-conditioned (or heated, depending on the season) classroom teaching about prepositional phrases and semicolons than plodding my way through the conservation center learning about butterflies and bats.  (Although when I do plan field trips, mine are to places like bowling alleys, where the smell of fried cheese sticks and broken dreams takes me straight back to college and it’s wonderful.)

Speaking of semicolons, a quick tangent—

I was up at my white board teaching one day, totally in my groove talking about how to correct run-on sentences using either a comma + conjunction combination, by starting a new sentence, or by inserting a semicolon.

“Oh, we know you love semicolons, Wheatzie,” said one of my students from her desk in the middle row.

I stopped for a moment, wipeoff marker poised in my right hand.  “Huh?” I said.  I mean, I do love semicolons.  They’re my absolute favorite piece of punctuation—you can fix so many things by just throwing one into a sentence!  But had I really talked to the kids so much about semicolons that they understood the depth of my devotion to them?

The student nodded her head solemnly.  “You told us that if you ever got a divorce, you would marry a semicolon because you love them so much.”

Huh.  I guess I had, then.

The rest of the class was nodding along with the student and I heard murmurs of agreement like, “Yeah, you said that,” and “Oh, yeah!  I remember that.”

I was dumbfounded.  “I said that?”

This time it was a different student who piped up.  “Yep.  Last year.”

I stood at the board blinking for a couple of seconds.  I mean, what on earth…?  Finally I found my voice.  “Why do you guys listen to anything that comes out of my mouth?  Absolutely anything at all?”

I watched as a sea of 5th graders shrugged at me.  “Oh, we don’t, really,” one of them said.

I must say that it did strike me that in all of the things I had taught them over the last couple of years—participles, comparative and superlative forms of adjectives and adverbs, prepositional phrases…

…the thing that they remembered was that I would marry a semicolon if my husband ever cheated on me.

Anyway.

I might hate field trips, but I painstakingly plan them because I love my students—and they love field trips.  So, as I remind all of the parents very virtuously in my daily e-mails when it comes to field trips, I DO IT FOR THE CHILDREN.

Our annual trip to the pumpkin patch almost makes it all worthwhile.  Even I have to admit that it’s a fun field trip, especially on a gorgeous fall day.  Isn’t fall everyone’s favorite?

This year, however, the forecast wasn’t looking so good on the Friday we planned to go.  Seventy percent chance of rain all day.  Two days before the field trip, I started getting texts from parents begging me to cancel, to reschedule, to move the trip inside to a bowling alley instead.  (People really know how to work me—they know I love a dank bowling alley almost as much as I love semicolons, and I’m not even being sarcastic when I say that.)

I texted each one of them back. 

Quit being a baby and pack a poncho.  WE DO IT FOR THE CHILDREN.

Suck it up and wear your rain boots.  And remember that WE DO IT FOR THE CHILDREN.

I have lived in this town for about 12 years. I have known most of my parents for that entire time:  I’ve taught some of their older children; some of their kids were born at the same time as mine and we were pregnant together; some of us used to organize and attend playgroups together.  So they all know me well, and I could almost feel them collectively rolling their eyes at the tone of my holier-than-thou reply texts—and I loved it.  I giggled each time I sent one.

Besides, I told the parents who complained, this pumpkin patch has a full bar.

Now, none of us could partake in it since it was a school day and we were taking our children on a field trip, but still. It was the thought that counted.

On the phone the morning before the field trip, I confirmed to the owner that we were coming rain or shine, and I told her that we adults would obviously not be drinking any of their delicious dark beer that day but I still wanted to offer compliments for her and her husband’s brilliant business plan. (I mean, what’s better than a pumpkin patch and a beer on a beautiful, sunshiny fall day?)

She replied, deadpan, “I’ll spike your coffee for you.”

We laughed together and I said no thanks and of course I knew she was kidding—but I liked her style.  She’d pretty much earned my field trip business for the rest of my teaching career.

The day of the field trip, the weather turned out to be PERFECT.  I mean, it wasn’t a crisp, bright, sunny fall day, but it didn’t rain and it wasn’t an unseasonable 90 degrees like it has been the last couple of Octobers.

I had to work really hard not to walk around making that annoying face that my older sister always talks about—the one with the pursed lips and the flared nostrils that usually comes along with a statement such as “I’m right once again as per the usual.”

I’m just kidding. I didn’t work really hard not to make that face. I did just the opposite, in fact: I walked around the entire 3-hour field trip making that face and saying those exact words.

I caught up with one of the parent chaperones who had complained the most loudly and texted me no fewer than three times the night before the field trip saying we should cancel, and I said, “I heard that you told one of the other parents that you have to stick your foot in your mouth because today ended up being wonderful.  I would just like to hear that from you. I would like you to tell me that you were wrong and I was right.”

He smiled at me.  “Hey,” he said, and I puffed up as I waited for the glorious words that were coming.  I was not disappointed.  He continued:  “I am so glad you stuck to your guns even though you’re almost always wrong.  Even a blind pig finds an acorn every once in a while, and today was your day.”  He patted me on the back and walked away.

I beamed.  “Thanks!” I called over my shoulder at him as I placed my hands on my hips and turned to survey the kids, all jumping and laughing and petting animals and riding ziplines and trains and hay rides and more.

A satisfied smile on my face, I enjoyed the rest of my day.

As we say in these parts, Happy fall, ya’ll!

 

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