I never went on a school trip, either we didn't have any, or I wasn't allowed to go, or something, but we never had any. The first time I went away without any chaperone was as a senior in high school when I went with 2 girlfriends to Virginia Beach, on a plane and in a hotel, by ourselves. It was very fancy (no not at all but we thought it was) and we had a lot of fun.
So, when Max's social studies teacher asked for volunteers to go on the school trip to Washington DC, I offered. I thought many things, none of them that I was an idiot for even thinking of it. One was that this was probably the last chance I would have to go on a class trip, something I only did once when Max was in 3rd or 4th grade to the American Museum of Natural History. I also thought - boy was this trip EXPENSIVE so if I went, it would be free for me and I could justify the massive outlay of cash. At 6:30 on Sunday morning I was truly regretting the decision. The bus went to the wrong address so we waited in 35 degree weather for an hour for them to arrive. We did get to watch Casino Royale on the bus - these kids did have a good DVD collection because we also watched The Simpsons and Legally Blonde on the way home. Not too shabby. The other bus was forced to watch Finding Nemo and Monty Python - ha ha, that's what Max gets for insisting that we be on separate buses.
There were about 75 kids, almost the entire 8th Grade, who were actually some of the nicest group of children I have ever been around. Except for maybe 2 kids who were seriously annoying and morons, they were smart, articulate, thoughtful, friendly and pleasant to be around for 3 days. This is saying a lot because I have always thought of myself as someone who truly doesn't like other people's children. Mine is fine, but those other ones seem poorly trained, spoiled and loud. These kids were all of those things, but those negatives were overshadowed by their normalcy - they were really good kids who will grow up to be fine and successful adults. They were so much better than the kids I went to school with (except you Daphne, Sharon, Janice, Jeannine if you are reading this - the rest of them, you know who I mean).
One thing that I didn't expect to enjoy so much, or hadn't actually thought all the way through, was that I actually got to see some really great sights of DC. Taking a tour of a city isn't something I would do outside of my job - I usually think of it as a quicky way to get to see a city, half-day on a bus and you pretty much can get the lay of the land, enough to bullshit your way through a conversation about what there is to do someplace, or to write a paragraph of brochure copy about it.
We saw all the memorials - Vietnam, FDR, WWII, Lincoln, Washington (missed Jefferson too bad and I think we missed Korea because I don't remember seeing it but it was on the itinerary). There was a women's in the military museum next to one of the monuments (don't ask which they blend together) that had paintings of the first 1000 people who died in Iraq. It was very beautiful and moving. The Archives with the original Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights and Constitution was awesome. Arlington Cemetery was pretty interesting - Joe Louis and JFK, who could ask for more? Air & Space was a little boring, and I had a very nice nap during the Sakajawea dancing performance - up until the hoop dance which was fabulous. The tour of the Capital with some interns from a Denver Congresswoman's office was very crowded. I especially loved the place where you can whisper on one side of the room and the voice comes out of the floor across the way.
Mount Vernon had some baby goats that were cute but the repetitive drone of the guides standing in the house, saying the same sentence over and over about the room they were standing in was a little creepy. I asked the social studies teacher who Nelly Custis was (we saw her crib) and she answered that "she was an adopted daughter, something like a niece I think." Well it turns out that is correct, however this small ugly woman standing in front of me turned to her young daughter and said "Or something like that. Don't listen to this teacher and these kids, they are wrong about everything they say." We had a Ghost Tour of Alexandria that was great fun, but could have been more scary. What a charming town, I had no idea it existed. Too bad the water is gooey.
I guess the funnest part of the weekend was watching the kids get completely punished at the hotel for being too loud and rowdy. The first night we got there they went wild, and were immediately in the hall having a shaving cream fight (guess who brought the shaving cream, yes it was my son, how proud I feel). Then the girls showed up in their extremely tiny flannel shorts and tank tops. After the hotel sent up the security guard to tell us that there were 7 noise complaints in 10 minutes the teachers told the kids they were in lockdown and not allowed out of their rooms. So they went in their rooms and discovered the connecting doors between them. That started another round of door slamming and screaming. More threats, and they calmed down. Until they discovered the possibility of ice. At 10:30 pm every single child in the hotel had an urgent need for ice. Seriously, they were going to die without it. And the ice machine was empty - used up. This Comfort Inn wasn't prepared for such a rush of ice. Those poor kids had to go to bed ice-less.The 2nd night the kids were warned that if they didn't behave in their rooms until a decision was made about the evening's activities (ie whether they would be allowed to go into someone else's room), they would be in lockdown again. Well sure enough the minute we arrived the door slamming and extreme running and jumping started. However, according them, nobody did it. "It wasn't me" was the chorus into the night. They were all watching tv, in the bathroom or napping. Yet the noise was so loud and reverberating that I literally couldn't tell which room it was coming from. When I went into one of the rooms, a kid from the connecting room was seen flying over the bed and onto the floor with a thump. He was small, so it could have been worse, but it wasn't him making any noise. Complete innocence all around.
So it is now official, my son is graduating middle school and will be a high school freshman in the Fall. I feel very old and haggard and tired, but it was completely worth experiencing his life for 3 days and knowing what kind of people he has been around for the past 3 years. Very gratifying.