I didn’t want to go on the field trip. After a night of no sleep and a 2-hour nap in the morning, I was really regretting that little check mark I made next to “chaperone” on the permission slip. Still, I bundled myself up, grabbed my pocket book, and headed for the train. I had made a commitment and a promise.
It was cold and I hate dressing in layers. The trip was going to involve a mile walk with 25 8-year-olds. My head was throbbing a bit. They were predicting snow. Cold, wet, disgusting snow.
The previous night was Family Reading Night . . . and two days in a row involving social interaction is a bit exhausting for me. Still, I stepped off the train, walked up the stairs to the street, and waited for the bus.
I passed Abby in the hall as I headed to her classroom. The enthusiastic, “Mommy!” made me smile and started breaking down my grumpiness. I love how she’s still so excited to have me chaperone. I’m sure the day will come when it’s no longer “cool” to have mom spend so much time at her school. I need to enjoy this while it lasts.
As we made it out the front gate of the school and starting walking toward City Hall, I shed the rest of my grumpiness. The kids’ excitement added to my own anticipation. In 33 years of living in and around Philadelphia, I’ve walked past City Hall more times than I could possibly count, even protested outside once (a funeral march for the death of the arts because there was talk of closing down some of Philadelphia’s magnet schools) . . . but I’ve never gone inside. Funny how it’s so easy to skip the landmark sites when they’re a part of your own backyard.
I listened to our guide tell the same stories I heard in elementary school – William Penn and Penn’s Woods, mapping out the city like a grid (though I didn’t know it was because of fire safety), the City of Brotherly Love (and Sisterly Affection), the treaty with the Lenape . . . I found myself enjoying it as much as the kids. She said she wished she had more time to talk about William Penn and all other things Philadelphian. I wished she did as well.
We took the kids upstairs to the observation deck underneath the William Penn Statue, which obviously, I’ve never been to either since I had never been inside City Hall. My daughter and I were in the last group to go up. It was amazing looking out over the city. Walking through my familiar neighborhoods day by day, I forget how big and how busy the city is. I could have spent hours up there . . . . I’d love to sit looking out at the view with a pen and notebook in hand, jotting down lines and couplets and stanzas.
Our last stop was the city council meeting room with a little talk of what goes on there and the kids asking questions. I love how excited they are to learn about our city’s history and its present. It’s a particularly cool experience to see these things through their eyes.
We left City Hall and walked back to the school. Abby and I gathered her things and headed out to the bus. We managed to get out early enough to get ahead of the high school kids . . . total bonus. It started snowing before we made it to our connecting bus. It was still cold. My head was still a little throbby. But I no longer regretted checking that little box.
We settled in at home . . . snuggled on the couch to watch a movie. Over dinner we talked about everything we learned . . . and some of the other little bit of history I know. We started planning a trip for the Spring . . . we’re going to play tourists and see all of the wonderful landmarks that call our city home. I think it’s time to stop ignoring our beautiful backyard.