I spent yesterday with my wife's fifth grade class, chaperoning a field trip to the Mountain to Sound Greenway at Lake Sammamish State Park. As the culmination of a science unit on ecosystems, three classes of ten- and eleven-year-olds boarded one school bus and one King County Metro coach (thanks to the King County Metro Field Trip Program).
Half the kids, some of whom had never been on public transportation, rode the articulated bus to our destination and the other half rode back.
I've got to say I preferred the school bus. The upholstered brown cocoons were like sitting on an old friend.
Originally, the trip was scheduled for Tiger Mountain, but the roads were impassable after one of the Seattle's clammiest winters ever.
Before I go on, I've got a question, especially for you Northwest natives:
What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think Lake Sammamish Park and Tiger Mountain?
Ted Bundy, right? Whose sick idea was it to have a fall-back Bundy crime scene for the kids to tour in case the first one fell through?
My wife. And that's why I love her so very much.
Seriously, what a great age these kids are. Another dad and I were in charge of seven students, including his daughter. Every once in a while, she'd come over and take his arm for a little while and then take off again. It tugged at my heart.
And each time I glanced at her selfless show of affection toward her father, all I could think was, wait till she's thirteen, Brad.
We saw some cool animals—a bald eagle, a red tailed hawk—but the find of the day was a small garter snake that had slithered up through a fresh mole hill as we walked by. Four boys swooped in, sticking their faces closer to the snake than any toothbrush they've ever held.
Kid 1: "I've got a garden snake. At home. And a cobra."
Kid 2: "My cousin has a shoebox filled with snakes."
Kid 1: "They alive?"
Kid 2: "Yeah."
It rained all day and the constant standing left a lot of kids and adults pretty worn out. When two boys smacked their heads together while simultaneously stepping over a short fence, it was time to go. One boy walloped the top of the other kid's head right above the eyebrow, and he was hurting bad. I couldn't help but remember, forty years ago on a trip to the Woodland Park Zoo, running toward the bus, tripping and gashing my knee so painfully, the shock and burn brought on a wave of seasickness and cold sweat I wouldn’t again experience until college.
The searing red pain of that spring day in 1974 haunts me even today, every time I shave my legs.
Some kids fell asleep on the way back, while others were just as hyper as when we'd left, singing and shouting for the duration.
And Holy Sweet Mother of Camp Auburn, when's the last time you heard singing on a school bus?