“All our times have come
Here but now they’re gone
Seasons don’t fear the reaper
Nor do the wind, the sun or the rain, we can be like they are
Baby take my hand, don’t fear the reaper
We’ll be able to fly, don’t fear the reaper
Baby, I’m your man”
This past Friday, I had the “pleasure” of accompanying Sofia and her fellow 5th graders on a field trip to Discovery Park in Seattle, Washington. According to Google, Discovery Park is 534-acre park operated by Seattle Parks and Rec. It also happens to be the largest park in Seattle. According to me, I have a different opinion.
Now, between you and me, I did not want to go on this field trip. I was sick, Sofia was recovering from being sick, and walking around for hours on end, down by the water in Seattle on a freezing cold day just did not sound appealing to me. However, it was very important to Sofia that I go, so I did what we all do as parents from time to time and sucked it up.
The day began with about seventy-five 5th graders, three teachers and a handful of parent volunteers boarding two school buses to make the forty-five-minute drive to Seattle. On the first bus, you had Sofia’s class, one teacher, four parent volunteers and half of the kids from another 5th-grade class. Everyone else was on the second bus. Five minutes in once we hit the highway, we are stopped in traffic. Complete bumper to bumper traffic. I had mixed emotions about this. A part of me thought “Hmmm, if we are stuck in traffic long enough, then just maybe we will run out of time and not have time for the field trip.”
(Important to note, the buses were on a very tight schedule. We had to be back at the school by 1:00 so they could pick up the high school kids.)
Then another part of me was like……actually there was no other part of me. I wanted to be stuck in traffic. Even on the damn bus, I was cold, I could not imagine what it would be like walking around in it.
One side of the highway was completely shut down. The police were having the cars turn around and come on to our side of the highway. Perhaps my wish would come true?
It would not be until later that evening that I found out the traffic was due to the threat of a possible shooter at one of our local colleges.
Somehow, we made it through the traffic.
A short while later, we were in the heart of downtown Seattle, a short while after that, we made it to our destination.
The buses unload, the kids are excited. As soon as I stepped off the bus, I knew I was in for the longest three hours of my life. Bone-chilling cold, and wind. I had five shirts on, a scarf, a pretty heavy jacket, and some jeans. I seriously do not know what else I could have done to make sure I was warm.
“Okay kids, this is your last chance to go to the bathroom. If you do not go now, you will have to wait until we come back. This is the only bathroom at the park, so for those of you that need to go, follow me, everyone else line up and wait.”
Sofia and I, along with my group of kids listened intently to Sofia’s teacher explain the bathroom situation, and when I say “bathroom” think more along the lines of an outhouse.
“Sofia, do you need to go to the restroom?”
“No mom, and even if I did, I would not use that one.”
My group of kids, who I now like to call “The Smart Ones” all took our place where the teacher directed us to wait. Did I mention to you guys how cold it was? Let me paint you a picture. One of the parent volunteers, who happened to be a tall, pretty in shape guy, who was also bundled up in warm clothes said: “We need to get moving, get the body heat going, it’s too cold out here to be standing around doing nothing.”
So see, it was not just me.
Finally, all those who just HAD to use the outhouse returned, and off we went. Directly in front of us was a pretty big hill. Like so steep and twisty you could not even see where it ends. For the love of God please let there be some secret trail that I cannot see from this angle. For the love of God please do not let this be our starting point.
“Okay everyone, I hope you have your walking shoes ready, here we go!”
Here we go, up the damn “hill” although I believe “mountain” is the correct description.
Seriously, this damn “hill” was at least a 15-minute hike. Let me paint you another picture. Sofia’s teacher is a young (ish) man, early 30’s, who previously coached gymnastics. Dude is in shape. Our two other 5th grade teachers are cute young twenty-somethings, who again, are pretty in shape. You see my dilemma.
One teacher, let’s call her “Miss S” took the front, Sofia’s teacher took the middle, and the last teacher, “Miss N” took the rear. What I should have done is hang back with Miss N. She knew what she was doing and she did it at her own pace. However, I was stuck in the middle with Sofia’s teacher, who again is a former gymnastics coach and, well, this “hike” to him was probably the equivalent of walking the streets of Seattle on a lazy Sunday morning.
Finally, we turn off the big hill (mountain) and begin our descent on to another trail, with you guessed it, another big hill.
Are you freakin kidding me?!?!
At this point, the groups were even more disbursed. Miss S’s group was way ahead. The middle group, we were barely making it, kids and parents, it was rough. I mean Sofia’s teacher was breezy, and everyone else probably hoped he would take a jump off of the “mountain.” The last group, they were pretty far behind. Again, this is the group I should have been in.
You guys, it was bad. So so bad. The ground seemed to level off, Sofia and her friends ran ahead to the teacher. I just could not hang and told her I would catch up. I am coughing and wheezing. I am freezing one second, then sweating the next. At one point, as I am hiking up the “hill” I take my jacket off, I take my scarf off, I take one of my shirts off because I am dripping with sweat. About five minutes later, everything comes back on because I was cold again. I just could not win. I am not even kidding when I say all I wanted to do was pass out in the cold, wet, pine needle infused dirt. I felt I was having an asthma attack and I had no idea what to do. I was in the middle of GOD KNOWS WHERE. I felt I needed oxygen, but how in the hell could I get oxygen in the realms of what I consider to be hell? I had a plan. I would text Sofia’s teacher “Do whatever it is you need to do to keep Sofia away from me, but I am about to pass out.”
I would then text Joe. “Seriously, dying in the middle of nowhere, I need oxygen, call the school.”
I am not even kidding, these were my thoughts and it made me sad, and mad.
I just wanted to pass out and sleep. It took everything I had to continue and that is no exaggeration.
What kept me going, I did not want Sofia to be a Kate.
Kate, a character from the ever popular t.v show “This is Us.” Kate has always blamed herself for her dad’s death. I knew if something happened to me here on this god awful “field trip” I knew Sofia would spend the rest of her life blaming herself. I could not allow that to happen. I will meet my death one day, but I cannot go out like this, I cannot go out like Jack Pearson did. I could not allow Sofia to be a Kate.
Sofia is long gone, but I am not worried. She is with her group and there are only so many places she could go. All of the parents, even the tall in shape guy, we were all struggling. All of us parents dispersed somewhere on this “hill” praying to the Gods above to just take us now. My legs were burning, my chest was heavy, I was done. This was the most ridiculous field trip I had ever been on, and say what you want to say about me, call me out of shape, call me a fool, I feel these parents (myself included) should have been better warned about what exactly this trip entailed.
The further we walked the more intense it gets. I could see Sofia way up ahead of me, and no one in back. Directly in front of me was this little boy who was not supposed to even be in my group. He turns around, looks at me. “It must suck to be old.” I am still wheezing I cannot even address the little bastard who is struggling just as much as I am thank-you-very-much. He turns to me again, with an evil smirk. “Good thing I am still young.”
Like seriously? Wheezing as I may I am now looking for a tree branch to trip his sorry little ass.
I grabbed a water bottle from my backpack, took a quick two minutes to guzzle it down, trying hard as I may to get some sort of breath support back into me and I continue on.
I am not sure how much time passed, but finally, I made it to the clearing. By “clearing I mean the edge of a cliff where there was sand and a beautiful view of the ocean. A view that I could not appreciate because I felt like I was dying. It’s cold, it’s windy. The wind is so bad you cannot even tell if it is indeed the ocean you are looking at or some sort of rocky terrain.
“Okay kids, lunch time! Find a seat!”
The bastard was not even out of breath.
Also, “find a seat?” There is like no place to sit except on the wet sand.
I gave my group of kids some candy Sofia and I specifically bought for them. They were so polite, so thankful, but none of them could enjoy the damn candy. Odds are they were in the middle of hypothermia.
Before we knew it, it was time to make our way back to the bus. THANK YOU JESUS!!!!
One would think the hike back would not be as bad since a majority of it was downhill. One would also be wrong.
You guys, I had a parent, a parent who speaks no English but most likely used Google to translate. This parent came up to me, out of breath, in broken English and asked “Did you know, this would be bad? Long walk? You know?”
Of course I did not know! Had I known I signed up for Hell on earth I would have said “Screw this” and Sofia and I would have had a girls day.
Eventually, we all get back to the outhouse. The kids take one more restroom break. I look over my shoulder and notice another parent. Attractive guy, dressed in fatigues, pretty buff. (It’s only now I realize there was lots of eye-candy on this trip from hell) He pours a bottle of water over himself and tells his son “Time to go, I ain’t doing this anymore.” It took everything I had to not ask him if I could hitch a ride with him.
“Fifth graders, we are doing a group picture!”
Are you kidding me? Just put me on the damn bus already. No one wants to do a picture.
Slowly, we all make our way back to the bus. The three fifth grade teachers are right behind me. I overhear them making plans to get together after school, have a drink, unwind, and before I knew it they break out in a “Bone Thugs N Harmony” song, with dance moves.
Just get it over with already. Kill me now instead of allowing me to die a slow torturous death.
Take me back to the comforts of my normal classroom I volunteer in. Where the kids are happy to see me and I have chocolate at my disposal. Where I can sit and watch the little third graders find the “magic piece of trash on the floor” and I do not have to do anything except listen. Just take me back to my normal and save your “Bone Thugs N Harmony” routine for the club….and enjoy it now, because in twenty years from now when your own children go on a field trip from hell, you give me a call and tell me “Jennifer, you were right, I have no idea what I was thinking. And it will be at this point that you forgive me for breaking out into my own rendition of Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper” while exclaiming “I told you so.”
“Come on baby, don’t fear the reaper
Baby take my hand, don’t fear the reaper
We’ll be able to fly, don’t fear the reaper
Baby, I’m your man”