Field trip privilege
The excitement has been palpable in our home for well over a week. Our girl who goes through life with most of her emotions on the inside, has been visibly joyous with anticipation for this rite of passage, end of elementary days journey to Washington DC. Her dad and I took delight in the expressions of pleasure and anticipation as the day of departure approached. We all held our breath as the never ending North Carolina winter dumped freezing rain and cancelled school a mere 24 hours ahead of take off time. Much care was taken to place each carefully chosen item to fill up a suitcase and small back pack.
After a 5 am wake up, a little breakfast and a last bit of contagious excitement shared, we headed to the school. After unloading the luggage of both mom and daughter, we claimed our spots on the big bus. Knowing that we were facing several hours of sitting, I got out and walked around, and this is what I encountered:
I noticed a mom and daughter walking up the sidewalk with little brother in tow. My mind flashed to my own younger daughter who was at that moment tucked away in her warm bed, safe in the care of her daddy. The story of this family could be one of several. Is she a single mom who could only get her child to this place at this early hour if the entire family came along? Is there a dad working 3rd shift somewhere? Whatever the story, this little guy had to bundle up and leave home well before the sun came up in order for his sister to get on the bus on time.
I headed to the restroom and was warmly greeted with a beautiful smile and a hug. Melissa – pronounced Ma-lee-sa – was one of the children in my book buddy group two years ago. We have a special bond. She has shared some intimate details of her family’s life and story as immigrants to this country from Mexico. As we chatted about our big days ahead, she said, “My dad is crying. It is hard for him to say goodbye.” I hugged her and then walked back toward the bus. As she connected with her dad, I looked deep into his eyes and said, “we will take good care of your daughter.” What was the story behind those teary eyes? What has he seen and lived to have such emotion at this three day parting?
As a mom whose age is north of 50, I have approached this trip with a mixture of excitement, doubt and ambivalence. Do I have the energy to spend 3 very long days and 2 nights with a group of 5th graders? Is this really how I want to spend 3 days? Yet as I reflect on the privilege that allows me choice in this matter, I am humbled. The $300 cost was never an issue. My other young child is safely and competently in the care of her dad. I get to be the one who navigates DC and spends the night in a strange hotel with my daughter and friends. A privilege indeed.