My bride convinced me to register as a potential chaperone for our 5th grader’s field trip a few months ago, and I forgot about it, because she said lots of folks register for this privilege, but what I shouldn’t have forgotten is that I’m really lucky and win stuff from drawings all the time, so when I found out I was going, I had much to shift in my work schedule to make it happen. But, on Wednesday morning at 545am, we arrived at her school to board the buses headed southeast.
Tybee is a barrier island just east of Savannah and south of Hilton Head. We stayed at a 4-H center that was like a campground, but on a marsh. There were cabins that resembled little open bay barracks, but we chaperones had a separate room with our own bathroom (but still had a bunk bed to share–I got the bottom one).
During the day, we learned about marsh ecology, beach ecology, invertebrates, and orienteering. At night, we returned to the beach for a guided walk that included gazing at myriad stars, hearing stories about pirates, and spending time silently listening to the waves scooting toward us.
We also visited Fort Pulaski and toured its grounds, which was great, except for the continuous whining from one boy about how badly he had to pee (once his eyes were full of tears, and he was lying on his side like a fetus from the pain in his bladder, I reluctantly agreed to escort him to the visitor center restrooms after a “Didn’t you hear the guide tell everyone to use the restroom before we left?” admonition).
After our muddy marsh walk, I decided that the brown leather Columbia hiking boots I bought with my dad during a trip home to Nashville shortly after college graduation should stay with the camp for future use by marsh walkers. It was a somewhat hard decision, as I’m a sentimental kinda guy, but the boots were nasty, and I didn’t want to clean them up to put them back in my suitcase. Also, I bought new waterproof Merrells last spring for our Hadrian’s Wall walk and really don’t like duplicity in my wardrobe (our closet’s not that big). I bid them farewell and smiled at the thought that they’d live on to protect future hikers from sticky black marsh mud and that, maybe, just maybe, they’d be there for my feet if I come back with my 2nd grade boy in 3 years).
On the bus ride home (like the bus ride there), I got to sit with my 5th grader, which was going to be 4 hours of bonding and creating memories we’d cherish for the rest of our lives when I pictured this trip in my head, but instead it was 4+ hours of watching movies at about 130 decibels as I tried to focus on the emails I needed to respond to via my ipad. When I got home, I immediately ordered wireless, noise cancelling Bose headphones that I will never ever leave home without, ever.
Despite the loud bus rides and the unruly cabin full of 10-year-old boys my co-chaperone and I had to try and quiet each night (I was “good cop”), I loved going on this trip. I love that I have enough control over my schedule to leave for 3 days during the work week. I love how sweet, kind, considerate, and innocent most of these little 5th graders are in their last year of elementary school, and how much fun it was to watch them get excited about coastal biology and ecology. I love exploring a new part of the state I’ve called home since 1997 and learning how diverse its topography can be. I loved all the free coffee.
When people ask when was the happiest time of my life, I never hesitate before saying 5th through 7th grades, but getting to experience this time with our children as they enter this same time frame is pretty close to being as good. I can’t wait for the next few months and years.