School Trip

This post was written in response to a prompt from the red dress club:

School trips. We all go on them. What trip do you remember the most? Where did you go? Who was with you? How did you get there? Have you ever been back?


* * *


At the end of every year, the elementary kids would walk out the front door of our school and turn right.  When we reached the Variety Store at the corner of Prospect and Main, we’d head left—towards the village park.  There, we would ride the swings and scoot gingerly down hot slides.  We’d play kickball and baseball and red rover until we were hot and sweaty.  The teachers would call us to the shade of the pavilion where we’d sit at wooden picnic tables with green paint flaking from them.  We’d eat our lunch: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on Wonder bread.  Ruffled chips.  The obligatory apple.  A couple of chocolate chip cookies and, best of all, a Coke wrapped in foil to keep it cold.
And it’s this Coke wrapped in foil that reminds me suddenly of another class trip of sorts: The annual Memorial Day band parade.  As a member of the marching band, I would don a woolen uniform and board a bus with my baritone and—with the rest of the band and the cheerleaders, the flag girls and the majorettes—would march in four parades. 
I loved these parades.  I loved the solemnity of the occasion.  I loved when the entire village grew silent as the mayor lead everyone in prayer.  But my sophomore year, it was hot—too hot to march in a woolen uniform with a hat upon my head.  It was a tall hat; a furry hat.  It was a white hat, faded to gray.  It was the hat that had caused our band to be nicknamed the marching Q-Tips. 
Those hats.
Those hats!  Looking at my hat, I was hit with a sudden burst of inspiration: I would take three cans of Coke, wrap them in foil and put them in the freezer.  I would march in four parades with those three cans of Coke in my hat.  I would be a cool cucumber.
I would be cool.
The morning of the parade, I put on my uniform, pulled the cans from the freezer and tossed them in a plastic bag.  I put the bag in my uniform hat and drove to school and got on the bus.    I showed my friends the bag of pop.  I was sure they were jealous.
We arrived at the first parade and got off the bus.  We lined up in formation.  We put on our hats.  We began marching. 
It was OK, for the first few steps.  But then, my pop cans kind of rolled off to one side and down close to my ear, causing me to tip my head in that same direction. 
My band director looked at me kind of funny.
I tried to straighten my neck.
We arrived at the cemetery.  I gave my head several violent jerks, trying desperately to center the pop back on the top of my head.
My band director looked at me kind of funny.
The fourth graders recited “The Gettysburg Address.”
My neck hurt.
Slowly, the Brownies distributed flowers to plant at each grave site.
I cursed the pop cans.
A little girl crawled upon an ancient stone, a stone whose words had been erased by time.  The stone fell and her mother tried to right it to no avail and I prayed for the ceremony to be over.
A veteran read the names of all who had served, beginning with the Revolutionary War.
My neck screamed.  I glanced at my band director.  Could I just slip the hat off for just a quick moment?
A trumpet player started “Taps.”  When he had finished, another trumpeter, who’d sneaked over a small rise and behind a tree, echoed the song and I wished, oh how I wished, that I could be playing “Taps” over that hill with my hat off and emptied of the horrible Coke cans.
The ceremony ended.  The band director called us to attention.  I picked up my baritone and turned.  We left the ceremony in Parade March. 
We boarded the bus.  I pulled off my hat. 
I opened a can of Coke and drank it in one gulp. 
We drove to the next parade.
I had to use the bathroom.

 

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Writing in the Margins, Bursting at the Seams: School Trip

Monday, June 27, 2011

School Trip

This post was written in response to a prompt from the red dress club:

School trips. We all go on them. What trip do you remember the most? Where did you go? Who was with you? How did you get there? Have you ever been back?


* * *


At the end of every year, the elementary kids would walk out the front door of our school and turn right.  When we reached the Variety Store at the corner of Prospect and Main, we’d head left—towards the village park.  There, we would ride the swings and scoot gingerly down hot slides.  We’d play kickball and baseball and red rover until we were hot and sweaty.  The teachers would call us to the shade of the pavilion where we’d sit at wooden picnic tables with green paint flaking from them.  We’d eat our lunch: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on Wonder bread.  Ruffled chips.  The obligatory apple.  A couple of chocolate chip cookies and, best of all, a Coke wrapped in foil to keep it cold.
And it’s this Coke wrapped in foil that reminds me suddenly of another class trip of sorts: The annual Memorial Day band parade.  As a member of the marching band, I would don a woolen uniform and board a bus with my baritone and—with the rest of the band and the cheerleaders, the flag girls and the majorettes—would march in four parades. 
I loved these parades.  I loved the solemnity of the occasion.  I loved when the entire village grew silent as the mayor lead everyone in prayer.  But my sophomore year, it was hot—too hot to march in a woolen uniform with a hat upon my head.  It was a tall hat; a furry hat.  It was a white hat, faded to gray.  It was the hat that had caused our band to be nicknamed the marching Q-Tips. 
Those hats.
Those hats!  Looking at my hat, I was hit with a sudden burst of inspiration: I would take three cans of Coke, wrap them in foil and put them in the freezer.  I would march in four parades with those three cans of Coke in my hat.  I would be a cool cucumber.
I would be cool.
The morning of the parade, I put on my uniform, pulled the cans from the freezer and tossed them in a plastic bag.  I put the bag in my uniform hat and drove to school and got on the bus.    I showed my friends the bag of pop.  I was sure they were jealous.
We arrived at the first parade and got off the bus.  We lined up in formation.  We put on our hats.  We began marching. 
It was OK, for the first few steps.  But then, my pop cans kind of rolled off to one side and down close to my ear, causing me to tip my head in that same direction. 
My band director looked at me kind of funny.
I tried to straighten my neck.
We arrived at the cemetery.  I gave my head several violent jerks, trying desperately to center the pop back on the top of my head.
My band director looked at me kind of funny.
The fourth graders recited “The Gettysburg Address.”
My neck hurt.
Slowly, the Brownies distributed flowers to plant at each grave site.
I cursed the pop cans.
A little girl crawled upon an ancient stone, a stone whose words had been erased by time.  The stone fell and her mother tried to right it to no avail and I prayed for the ceremony to be over.
A veteran read the names of all who had served, beginning with the Revolutionary War.
My neck screamed.  I glanced at my band director.  Could I just slip the hat off for just a quick moment?
A trumpet player started “Taps.”  When he had finished, another trumpeter, who’d sneaked over a small rise and behind a tree, echoed the song and I wished, oh how I wished, that I could be playing “Taps” over that hill with my hat off and emptied of the horrible Coke cans.
The ceremony ended.  The band director called us to attention.  I picked up my baritone and turned.  We left the ceremony in Parade March. 
We boarded the bus.  I pulled off my hat. 
I opened a can of Coke and drank it in one gulp. 
We drove to the next parade.
I had to use the bathroom.

 

Labels: , , ,

16 Comments:

At June 27, 2011 at 3:43 PM , Anonymous Jennifer O. said...

The hats were terrible, and so were the white orthopedic shoes and too short blue polyester pants with two stripes down the side of the leg. So my sophomore year, I tried out for the flag team. I'd be able to wear makeup without sweating it off, show a little cleavage, and wear a blue dress with gold sequins. It was not much of an improvement. By the time football season rolled around, I realized the school alternated between jeering out "Fat Corp" and calling us Smurfs. And I didn't get to play my clarinet.

 
At June 27, 2011 at 5:41 PM , Anonymous From Tracie said...

I feel so bad laughing, but when that coke can slipped over to one side, I just couldn't help it! I can see how it sounded like a good idea in theory. Anything to keep you cool.

I, too, was in marching band, with hot uniforms and big hats. Pure torture! Our hats weren't too bad, but our bright blue uniforms earned us the nickname "marching smurfs".

 
At June 27, 2011 at 8:24 PM , Anonymous Cheryl P. said...

Funny how ingenious plans can fail so badly. My neck ached for you even in the reading. (achy neck didn't keep me from laughing though)

 
At June 28, 2011 at 5:16 AM , Anonymous Lisa Hixon said...

Thanks for your wonderful blog. Your stories are hilarious. :)

 
At June 28, 2011 at 5:52 AM , Anonymous Galit Breen said...

Oh dear! I felt so badly for you throughout! Your neck must have hurt so badly! I was right there with you and so wished I could hold your hat for you, just for a second!

I'm glad that you finally got that cool, refreshing gulp. So very well deserved!

 
At June 28, 2011 at 6:36 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Pretty dumb thing to do, when I think back. And here I thought I was so cool.

 
At June 28, 2011 at 6:37 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks, Lisa! I can't find your blog information. Can you send it along so I can take a look at your blog?

 
At June 28, 2011 at 6:37 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Yes, I laughted, too. What a dip.

 
At June 28, 2011 at 6:38 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

So you and Jennifer were both the Smurfs! I loved the marching band, but the uniforms...ugh.

 
At June 28, 2011 at 6:39 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Now I knew I would never make it as a flag girl. Not if I had to reveal a portion of my stomach. You know - the fat portion of my stomach. Yeah, I would definitely have been a part of the "fat corp"--an uncoordinated one, too.

 
At June 28, 2011 at 7:17 PM , Anonymous Katie @ Chicken Noodle Gravy said...

HA! Loved this! I wonder why they make you wear those dang hats?!? I could picture you perfectly, cans of pop under hat, sweat rolling down your face, a look of exhaustion in your eyes and you looked from the ceremony to your band director and back again. Genius!

I especially loved your ending; it had me laughing out loud!

 
At June 29, 2011 at 6:30 PM , Anonymous Jayca @cart-wheels said...

Stopping by after you were kind enough to comment - so glad I did! I am now enjoying my [diet] Coke twice as much!

And feeling quite sorry for the uniform-clad at this weekend's parades ...

 
At June 30, 2011 at 11:22 AM , Anonymous Coming East said...

This was hysterical! And so well told. The scene of the ancient gravestone falling over just added to the hilarity. I can picture the whole experience because I, too, played in the band and marched in the Memorial Day parade. I played the bell lyre.

 
At July 1, 2011 at 9:52 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks, Susan! I will *never* forget that tombstone falling over and the mother glancing around to see whether anyone had noticed before hastily picking it back up, only to have it topple over again.

 
At July 1, 2011 at 9:53 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks for stopping by!

 
At July 1, 2011 at 9:54 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

I think shortly after I graduated, they changed the uniforms. The hats were much smaller (no more Coke cans) and cooler.

 

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