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Saturday, January 22, 2005

The Spirit Of Springfield

A couple of years ago, I chaperoned a field trip to Springfield. With about 42, 9- and 10-year-olds, the numbers seemed to be stacked against us few grown ups. I am amazed that I lived to write about it, seriously.

The day began at my son's school at 7 a.m. where I and 10 other grownup chaperones did a kid head count, picked our teams and headed out for what seemed like an eternal bus ride from hell.

Much like Gilligan, the Skipper, the millionaire and his wife, the movie star, the professor and Mary Ann, we were headed for a three-hour tour. Unfortunately the bus driver did not refer to the bus as the Minnow. Had she, I would have known to run quickly in the opposite direction.

It was too late, the wheels were turning and so was my stomach. The combination of the smell of the old bus, candy, children, carbon monoxide oozing from the exhaust system and the sound of 42 kids and one adult who apparently had never been on a fieldtrip with their child before, singing 99 Bottles of Soda On the Wall, made my stomach feel seasick at the very least.

Yes, I did say "99 Bottles of Soda On the Wall". In this day and age, not only can the kids not sing "99 Bottles of Beer On the Wall" but parents no longer can drink 99 bottles of beer before embarking on a trip such as this, which I feel may have made the day a little more tolerable.

The teacher told the kids to stay with their group. That part was easy, at least while we were on the bus. Once our bus landed upon the great city of Springfield, we visited the tourist center. My group no longer was together. Or could it be that I was the only one not with the group?

Anyhow, I finally found my group and we took the grandiose tour of the humble home of Abraham Lincoln. Not much inside was originally owned by the Lincolns. Most were 1800 replicas. The kids didn’t seem to care. It was a free day off of school, and that was what really mattered.

My son was one of the students in my group. I tried to pawn him off on another chaperone but I was stuck with him. If you have ever been a chaperone for any field trip, you know you always get your own child. Not only that, you also know your child will behave the worst out of everyone in your group.

Lane 1 was the one in my group walking ahead, talking out of turn, standing up on the bus while it was moving and touching things inside of the Lincoln home, until I told him that the home was haunted. Okay, so the house isn’t really haunted but it did stop him from messing around while we were in there.

I told him that Abe’s son who died from tuberculosis was still there in spirit. At first, I got the typical, “Yeah right, Ma!” response from him. So I did what any good mom would do. I blew on the back of his neck and then turned away quickly.

“Hey Mom, did you feel that?”
“That breeze,” he nervously said.
“Maybe it was the wind. Yeah son, I’m sure it was only the wind. Or maybe... no it couldn’t be, never mind buddy.”
“What Mom? What else could it have been?”
“I don’t want to frighten you, so never mind,” I said, knowing I had him under my spell.
“Hey Mom, you don’t think it is the ghost of that Lincoln kid do ya?”
“Well, he did die in this house,” I said, wide-eyed. “In fact, I think he died in this very room.”

Lane 1 suddenly had no trouble staying with the group. He also, suddenly, didn't think he was too old or too cool to hold his mom’s hand. It was one of my most shining moments of motherhood.

I did for one moment consider the ramifications of lying to him with such a story but was able to shrug off the guilt by thinking, nightmares, schmightmares!