History, Opulence, and Hamburgers
As we were preparing to move east from Texas, I made a list of things I wanted to do and places I wanted to see: the Smithsonian, Mount Vernon, Monticello, Niagara Falls in the summer, the Biltmore, and the White House to name a few. We thought we would set out each weekend and explore different places that we had only read about in history books. I still have my original list. It sounded so good on paper, so doable, so exciting, but then doesn’t everything sound better on paper?
The truth is that when we arrived in West Virginia I had to unpack and then find the schools, find a church, find the Walmart, and then get the kids registered, and then find the gas company to warm up our house, and then, and then, and then…
The kids are attending their second year of school in West Virginia. Last month, I travelled to Texas for a visit. I saw familiar Texas sites but still had not managed to see any on my original “move east” list. One morning towards the end of my Texas visit I received a phone call from the kids’ school. Yikes!
I carefully listened to the teacher explain why he had called, agreed with him and then hung up.
Woo-Hoo! I was going to be a chaperone to THE BILTMORE for the ninth grade field trip. Finally! I would see one of the historic sites from my original list. My beautiful ninth-grade daughter volunteered me for the trip. I whooped and hollered and told everyone where I was going. I checked my travel arrangements to make sure I would be back in West Virginia in time to chaperone.
The morning dawned clear and beautiful as we all gathered at the bus. Teen daughter and I were excited. She was going to miss school and I was going to see something spectacular. This would be no ordinary day. Fifty ninth-graders, myself, and three teachers. It was going to be FABuuuloussss.
An hour later, we stopped for breakfast. The chaperone was in need! We loaded the bus and settled in for the long part of the drive. The kids were great and all seemed excited to see the Biltmore estate. About noon, our bus pulled into a McDonalds. We were to eat before entering the grounds of the estate.
I was standing in line with all the teens when I heard the young man beside me ask the cashier, “Do you guys still have the dollar hamburgers?”
I thought, “Poor thing. He must not have much money.” I determined that I would buy extra and share it with him.
I heard him say, “Well, I will have eleven of those hamburgers then.”
Young Man: “Yes ma’am.” When he received his order, he turned and faced the crowd, held up his bulging McDonalds sack, and whooped.
I thought, “This could be an exciting day.”
And it was. The Biltmore was fantastic and opulent and all that I expected. We walked up and down stairs, saw fabulous rooms, learned a bit about American history, and finished with ice cream before we walked back to the bus.
As we were pulling away from the Biltmore, the hamburger youth held up his sack and asked me if I wanted one of his remaining two burgers.
“Uhhh…no, thanks.” They had been sitting on the bus all day. I turned towards the front to listen to the teacher. I heard a big “whoop” from across the aisle.
As I turned, he said to me, “I just sold the burgers and made two dollars!”
I smiled and raised my eyebrows to show support for his enterprise. He was thrilled and when we got to the supper stop he was the first one in line.
A day I will never forget. You simply haven’t lived until you have spent fourteen hours touring the largest house in America with FIFTY ninth-graders.
Many thanks to all of the High School teachers who arrange, implement, and participate in field trips away from the school building. You have a special place in this mother’s heart.