Chaperoning A Monumental School Field Trip

Originally Published in the Tri Town Transcript, May. 22, 2015

So it’s almost June. I know that because I could write this column, with my finger, in the pollen that is covering my kitchen counter. I’m not complaining – – pollen is messy and hard to breath, but you know what else pollen is? Not snow. I rest my case.

Given all the pre-summer stirrings, I was awash not just in pollen, but in happy weather parental glee, which morphed into chaperoning our eight year old daughter’s field trip to the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum.

What’s that you say, Regular Reader? Didn’t I just chaperone a field trip to Plimoth Plantation last brutally cold fall, mere weeks before the winter of our discontent? Yes. Yes, I did. So far nobody has nominated me for Field Trip Mommy of the Year, but surely that’s merely a technicality.

In this case, we had a lovely, warm, sunshiney day with no need to hide in Wampanoag Wetus for warmth. We began our trip at the relatively new and re-opened, Tea Party Ship museum. I was stoically prepared to watch the standard re-enactors turn second graders into bored, squirmy, snack monsters. But grab your complimentary souvenir quill pen and hang on, because the museum was actually . . . amazing.

You know that critically important question that has haunted my generation for decades? 
Namely, where are the jet packs we were promised as children of the 70s? I have the answer!!
 We aren’t driving flying cars, or teleporting, or zipping up space elevators, because every single bit of mind boggling technology has been put into this museum.

I mean look, I’ve been to Disney, I know what a good show looks like. But I’ve never actually seen a hologram that was convincing, or a painting come to life with special effects that stumped me. It was incredible! I think we all know I don’t gush about much, (except the idea of a drive-through Starbucks on route 1 in Topsfield), but this museum left me proud not only to be an American, but to be . . . a chaperone.

But lest my giddiness be misinterpreted, I promptly demonstrated what a chaperone-with-boundaries looked like for the children. The thing was, our next historical bit of excitement was climbing the Bunker Hill Monument. Regular Readers may recall that I have a small issue when it comes to heights. And by small I mean a gigantic propensity to totally freak out.

I breezily informed my daughter’s teacher. “I’m happy to chaperone, but I will not actually climb the monument.”

The teacher looked at me perplexed. “But you’re so fit, you’re in great shape. It will be fine!”
I sighed, flashing back to the previous summer when I naively took our girls up the very same monument. No one told me it was one of those monuments with the spiral staircase of death inside. The kind that requires you to go up the same narrow staircase others are coming down – people who might touch you – while you are hyperventilating. The kind where one misstep means hurtling to your death. The kind where I freeze and need a giant circle of personal space and not one single person to say one single thing to me. The kind where I need everyone to back off and leave me alone in my paralyzed state of terror, just back off!!!
Now imagine me doing that with a class full of eight-year-olds. I think not.
I smiled at the teacher. I was in great shape. But you know what I was not? A person who will ever go up the Bunker Hill Monument again. I have a fairly broad no monument policy in place now after an equally harrowing experience in the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower and some important, but horrifying arch, in Berlin.
“I’ll just hold down the fort [get it?] below, you know, guard the lunch bags in case there is a run on warm, mushy, peanut free, organic, and easily recyclable lunches in the park area.”
There wasn’t. But there was abundant sunshine with a light sprinkling of pollen promising summer, and maybe even our jet packs, in the not too distant future.