So Friday was a big day. It was the culmination of weeks, nay, months, of logistical planning, all on my, luckily, broad shoulders. It was The All School Zoo Field Trip. 600 kids, 55 adults, 14 buses, permission slips, lunch order forms, letters home to parents at regular intervals. Each class had to have a starting point and an ending point in the zoo, bus assignments, purchase orders had to be approved, money budgeted, checks picked up. Poor me. Throughout the process, I tried my hardest to be the lone person left at school to hold down the fort, but my boss kept insisting I needed to go, and that I would enjoy it. Sadness.
The Big Day came. Checks were in hand, buses were on time, kids were all dressed in red school shirts, lunch bags clutched in their sweaty, sticky hands. Shoe laces flopped everywhere. I made one last bid to stay at the school, and was shot down. I grimly settled my visor on my head and my clip-on sunglasses on my nose, clenched my teeth, and went to the zoo.
And absolutely loved every minute of it.
4th grade had a dearth of parent volunteers going, so I attached myself to their group, and adopted 3 boys as my own. These tres amigos are the future Bill Gates of the world – quirky, odd, offbeat, smart as all get-out, and, the sweetest thing, were the best of friends. They assured me repeatedly how great each other was – complimenting each other’s artistic ability, math ability, general smarts in each other. They held each other’s lunches while petting the snake. They occasionally had their arms around each other’s shoulders in a show of solidarity. They knew they were quirky – no shame there. And they liked me back – even though they were obviously BMOC, being 4th graders, they all three would glance back now and again as we wended our way through the zoo, to touch base and make sure I was still following them, still keeping them safe. Or, maybe, they were making sure I was safe, and not lost. It was awesome.
We started out in the reptile house, and almost didn’t see the rest of the zoo. Each snake and iguana and frilled lizard and komodo dragon had to be spotted amongst the leaves in the tanks, pointed out to the others, commented on, and read about before moving on the the next. Since I love a good reptile myself, I had no problem with this, but I really wanted to see more of the zoo, so urged them on and out.
After the reptile house, we went ahead and had lunch, so we could get rid of the lunch bags. Over lunch, we discussed, in no particular order: Bernie Sanders (wants us all to go to college for free! And free doctor visits! But how do the doctors get paid?), Djinns (did you know that Djinns are real, but not magic – they are angels, made by God?), aliens (aliens aren’t from another world, they are demons), how to draw a sick scull (with demonstration of same, as one of the boys always carries a piece of paper and a short pencil in his pocket, just in case someone has to draw a sick scull), how they were all best friends, sat at the same table in the classroom, with another kid, but he’s really mean, Hilary Clinton (just in passing), how good they were at problem solving, and several video games I am not familiar with. Was not familiar with. Now I know more about them than most other adults.
I was beginning to think we were never going to see real animals, but lunch was eventually consumed, trash thrown away, bathroom breaks finished, and we headed towards the Texas Live Exhibit. The guys loved the petting zoo, proclaiming it the best ever. This is the same petting zoo in which my son got knocked flat on his little baby bottom by a big-horned sheep 20 years ago. Now you can’t get as close to the animals, having to pet them through fences. Because of my son.
Finally, on to the Big Animals! I do have to say that the Fort Worth Zoo is not laid out well, You have to walk several football field lengths between some exhibits – a lot of walking without any sightings. But in between animal enclosures, there was not a plant unfondled or a penny flattening machine untouched, a coke machine button unpushed. Or a rock un-exclaimed over. These boys didn’t need no stinkin’ animals to be in wonder of the world. They loved it all. When we finally did get to see the elephants, one was pooping, with her butt pointing right at us, so it was a good day. The giraffes were barely glanced at, but the chicken in the enclosure was exclaimed over. The rhinoceros was a hit, looking as it does so Jurassic (Cretaceous? I don’t remember, but the boys knew.). The white tiger was adorbs, and the lions were in good form – the male was cranky and snapped at one of the females, sending the boys into fits of laughter.
I hit 10,000 steps on my fitbit about 12:30.
Finally, but, at the same time, much too soon, it was time for everyone to board the buses for home. I got a final shot of the guys, arms around each other, and they all said thank you to me (indeed, at the teacher’s urging, but I felt it was sincere). I had to admit to my boss that she was right, and it was the best field trip ever, and next year it will be even better, because now I have experience.
I was in bed by 6, and slept for 12 hours straight. But with a smile on my face.