Sunday, January 18, 2009

Adolescents Attempt the Appalachians

I'm sending my 8th-grader off on a bus to cross the Appalachians on a night with "light" snow. They leave from the middle school at 11:30 pm and are supposed to arrive at the mall in D.C. tomorrow morning in time for breakfast and then Smithsonian museums. Our advice is to advocate for Natural History first, because he's seen Air and Space and it will be way more crowded. On Tuesday they will attend the inauguration. His chaperone is one of the most kid-savvy people I've ever met, his former fifth grade teacher and mother of one of his best friends, so I'm reassured by that. Still, it's a little scary to send him off.

When I talked to the chaperone this morning, she said, "you know, I've been on bivouac in weather like this, but not with 8th-graders who may not bring enough outerwear." Since the trip has been planned since last spring, I ordered a coat for this year that is not as warm as last year's--which he ended up carrying a lot because it was "too hot." All I can do is hope that the common sense I've tried to instill in him won't be outweighed by 12-year-old machismo.

But still. I was thinking about animal poems last week, and I guess I'm continuing to think about them this week too, because when I envision the buses full of eighth-graders (four of them, two with male students and two with female), I think of this poem by Adrian Mitchell:

A Puppy Called Puberty

It was like keeping a puppy in your underpants
A secret puppy you weren't allowed to show to anyone
Not even your best friend or your worst enemy

You wanted to pat him strike him cuddle him
All the time but you weren't supposed to touch him

He only slept for five minutes at a time
Then he'd suddenly perk up his head
In the middle of school medical inspection
And always on bus rides

So you had to climb down from the upper deck
All bent double to smuggle the puppy off the bus
Without the buxom conductress spotting
Your wicked and ticketless stowaway.

Jumping up, wet-nosed, eagerly wagging--
He only stopped being a nuisance
When you were alone together
Pretending to be doing your homework
But really gazing at each other
Through hot and hazy daydreams

Of those beautiful schoolgirls on the bus
With kittens bouncing in their sweaters.

I put an extra pair of socks in his carry-on bag because that's the only other way I can think of to try to keep him warm as he travels away from me. But it's just as likely, at his age, that he'll think he doesn't need them and it's just annoying how parents fuss. That's my job now and for the next few years--to watch him ride away from me and not to be too annoying. I hope I'm up to it.


FreshHell said...

Oh, he'll have a great time. There's something magical about being ON THE SPOT and DC has a bit of magic. Sure, it's filthy and crowded and the weather sucks most of the time, but it's one of those nothing-else-like-it spots.

Jeanne said...

FreshHell, you're right, I know. When we used to live near DC, we went downtown for one fourth of July. It was worth the chaos.

My great-aunt, who lived in Hyattsville, MD, used to tell me I'd catch "Potomac fever" eventually, and she was right. I still think about going downtown at cherry blossom time.

We lived in Laurel, MD from 1983 to 1990, and I did a lot of my dissertation research at the Library of Congress and the Folger. We've been back several times with our kids to see the Smithsonian museums and monuments, etc. but so far we haven't taken them to the zoo and National Cathedral.

CSchu said...

Funny you should talk about busses full of 8th graders (as opposed to buses) along with A Puppy Called Puberty. A Freudian slip, perhaps?

SFP said...

I remember a field trip with 6th graders where I spent most of the time asking the girls if they might not be more comfortable if they put on a jacket. . .

Your lucky son. I'm sure he's having a blast today and it's definitely cold enough that he'll put on all the layers he's got.