First Graders, Fritos, and Nincompoops!
The end of school brings many exciting adventures. Family calendars are crammed full of awards ceremonies, final band concerts, graduations, sports play-offs and the ubiquitous end of school field trip.
With the mention of a field trips I am instantly taken back to the Frito Lay plant, the local bakery and the cotton gins of west Texas. I can still see the gross, corn mush in a huge stainless vat. We all got to give it one stir with large, wooden paddles as we filed by. It was poured into a pan, baked for a bit (I think) and then slivered into curls and baked some more. Viola! Fritos. We each got our own little bag. This was in the day before chips were the common supper food and the individual bags were a treat only accessible at the end of a field trip.
At the bakery we smelled the bread even as we got off the bus. We watched the bread roll along on tracks and into a huge ovens. We got a slice at the end of the tour and always wanted our moms to buy that particular brand because we knew all about it. The cotton gins were the source of income for many of us – even though we didn’t understand the idea of income. We grew up in the middle of the cotton fields and knew what a boll was and how it was picked and dumped into large trailers. Then our dads hauled it to the gin. Until the field trip we didn’t fully understand what happened to all the cotton being grown around us.
Sure, we got out of school for field trips, but most importantly we learned how our small community fit into the larger picture of the world. Things we took for granted were explained and hopefully we left with an appreciation of those who paved the way for us.
By late May of each year, I start acquiring papers about field trip locations, turn-in dates, times, and money details. I gladly sign each one, offer to chaperone if needed, and sign a check for the appropriate amount. I enter the dates on my calendar and return the forms to the home-room teachers. This year, I forgot that I had volunteered (I was busy!).
On Thursday my first-grader hopped off the bus screaming about the field trip “tomorrow.” I nodded while he jumped up and down. He turned to me and said, “My teacher says you have to take your own car.”
I looked blank.
“You know, for the field trip mom.”
“Do they need me to go?”
“Moooommmmm, you said you would.”
I discreetly made a call to the school and sure enough I was going on the first grade field trip at 8:00 the next morning. He packed his own lunch, went to bed early, and was the first one up the next morning. He rode the bus and I followed – several of us followed. I was in charge of a great group of kids and we went from one event to the next, ate our lunch, jumped up and down about a million times, took some pictures and grouped up to hear the last museum guide tell us about living in a log cabin way back when. The kids were tired and not listening very well. The speech was short, monotone, and ended with: “One of the biggest dangers to pioneer women was fire. They didn’t know about ‘stop, drop, and roll.’ Thank you for coming.” She waved her hands and we tromped back to the bus.
I was stunned. That’s it? Really? Pioneer women survived unbearable conditions and hardships only to stand around like a nincompoop while a cooking fire burned them to death because they didn’t know to “stop, drop, and roll”?
I was thankful it was the end of the day and the kids were not listening.
Other than that the first-grade field trip was topped off when my first-grader said, “It was the best day ever, Mom!”
If you haven’t been on a field trip recently, you should sign up. You get to spend time with your kid (or grandkid), you can correct cultural mis-information, you will learn new things about your community, and you will definitely be more appreciative of what the teachers deal with each day. It could be your best day ever!