I am the mom that every teacher dreams about. I come to class and help set up for parties. I volunteer in small groups, and I can always be counted on to go on field trips. I’m the mother that the teacher calls for the outside group activities and gives THE WORST GROUP to because I used to be a teacher and “I know you can handle it.”
I’m the mom who also gets handed the most rambunctious group on a field trip, for the reason stated above. I once went to Kennedy Space Center on a field trip with a child who didn’t want to obey me. He thought he should be able to run around like a crazy person and not stay with our group. He kept disappearing and I’d have to track him down again. I caught him sliding on the wet pavement like a Slip ‘n Slide. I had visions of having to explain a broken arm to his mother. He wasn’t my biggest field trip nightmare.
That trip took place when my eldest son was in the fourth grade. It was a wild class, mostly boys, and all of them—lively. We had plenty of chaperones to go around, but half of them dropped out the day of the trip, leaving me and one other mom. The teacher took the worst kids with her and the three of us merrily trooped onto the bus.
Somewhere along the way to St. Augustine, one of the girls got sick. She’d had a kidney infection that apparently hadn’t been fully resolved. She wanted to go on the trip, so her mother let her make the two hour ride to St. Augustine on a hot, noisy, bumpy bus. After we stopped along the way for the poor kid to throw up, the teacher decided she needed to go home.
Did I mention that we were nearly two hours away?
The bus parked at the visitor’s center not far from the historical downtown and the teacher called the parents. She was stuck with the child until they arrived. That left me and the other mom to watch the boys. None of the other chaperones would take them. They were happy to take the girls, but this motley bunch was our problem. There were twenty of them. Her twins and my son were the only three who knew how to behave.
It was hot, muggy, raining. No one should take an outdoor field trip the third week of March. But here we were, shlepping through puddles, from one end of the historic Spanish Quarter to the next, with twenty boys in tow. It was rather like a cattle drive, only cows would have been easier to contain.
The other mom inherited the two most annoying boys. They had an attitude problem and didn’t want to do what she told them. More than once, they defiantly did the opposite. It was getting ugly. When she couldn’t stand them anymore, she traded with me for three boys. I think at that point, she would gladly have taken my entire group so she didn’t have them anymore. Reluctantly, I agreed.
What was I to do? She was ready to kill them and the more she fussed, the more obnoxious they became. One of the boys was a thug-in-waiting. His family had moved from a big city in an effort to keep him out of trouble. From what I could see, it wasn’t working. However, my son liked him well enough and seemed to have a calming effect on him. After a short time in my group, they quieted down, behaving like angels (relatively speaking) the rest of the day.
Meanwhile, the teacher was still at the information center. The parents came to pick up the girl about 30 minutes before we were due to leave. Four hours of fourth grade boys, I was done, but we still had to get home. Fortunately, I don’t remember much of the ride back.
My favorite field trip was a day at the Peabody Auditorium in Daytona Beach. It’s a wonderful theater over on the beachside. They have plays, operas, orchestras and the occasional comedian who performs there. It’s a big, solidly built brick building that has been nicely remodeled. It’s not the fanciest environment, but it’s still an impressive edifice.
My youngest son’s fifth grade class had the opportunity to see the Moscow Symphony Orchestra perform. I was the first to volunteer. I love orchestras and theirs is among the best. I was there with my friend Jackie. We had gotten close because our boys were, and still are, good friends.
We were in the balcony. Looking back at all my trips to the Peabody, I can’t remember ever being on the first floor. We’re always seated upstairs. At least it has a good view. The acoustics in the Peabody are excellent. That’s great for hearing every note of the violin, but it makes it a pretty noisy place until the lights go down.
Jackie and I get silly. We have a similar sense of humor and the “You Shouldn’t Do That” Filter kinda goes away when we’re together. We were sitting there, rather far removed from our sons, watching the orchestra and enjoying the show. From time to time, we’d whisper and giggle. Our sons’ teacher kept shooting us dirty looks. Jackie would wave and we’d giggle. (Yes, we acted like fifth graders – don’t judge us.)
Sometime during the performance, one of the girls a few rows down, across the aisle, saw a bug on the steps. She started gasping and pointing as it crept closer to her. She climbed on her seat, ready to scream. Jackie and couldn’t see what had her so freaked, but we were ready to hop up and go look when one of the bus drivers got up.
Whatever the girl had seen, the woman spotted it. She took off her shoe, heavy leather with nearly a three inch heel and inch thick sole. THUMP she smacked that sucker into oblivion. That would have been all right, except it was one of those lulls in the music that classical music is known for. That thump echoed from every wall, distorting the sound so it was hard to know where it came from.
Everyone in the balcony looked over. The conductor heard it on stage, but didn’t have time to stop and find the source of the sound. The teacher glared at us like it was our fault. We, of course, burst out laughing.
Finally, we stopped giggling and there was another lull in the music. Jackie clapped her hands very softly and said, “Thump”. You can imagine how I reacted. Every time there was a lull after that, she’d do it again. I was in tears.
“Stop!” I hissed. “You’re gonna get us thrown out. The teacher’s giving us that Mean Teacher Look.”
We managed to settle down near the end of the performance. The finale was The 1812 Overture. Fortunately, not too many quiet moments in that piece. We stood with the rest for a standing ovation and waited for the students to clear out.
Our sons’ teacher came over to us, frowning. “What on earth were you doing? You kept laughing.”
We tried to explain, but somehow it was lost in translation. Try as we might, the giggling invaded our narration. She rolled her eyes, looking away from us.
“That settles it,” she said. “You have more fun than I do. Next time, I’m sitting by you.”
Amazingly, even after that incident, she allowed us both to go on later field trips. I don’t know if it was because we were the always the first to volunteer, or simply because she liked us.
Even with the problems I’ve encountered, I wouldn’t give up my field trip experiences for anything. It was a great way to be involved with my children. I’ve been to plays, symphonies, historical section of St. Augustine, museums, The Gator Farm, Kennedy Space Center, the beach, a honey packaging plant, operational farms, a citrus grove, a petting farm and a wide variety of other places I would never have gone otherwise. Not all the trips were with Jackie, but she was by far my favorite traveling buddy.
Jackie and I don’t go on anymore field trips. Our sons graduated from high school, but I remember our field trips fondly. She works at a local coffee shop now. One of these days, I’m going to walk in, order a coffee and right as she’s about to hand it to me, I’m gonna clap my hands and say, “Thump”.