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Field tripper

(warning: the following post mentions death and an account of a field trip I once took in high school…if you are feeling fragile about death and the process of burial, you may not want to read)

I love to find field trip permission slips in the backpacks of my children.

It means I am going somewhere. I am a Perma-Chaperone, signing up to help herd name-tagged children on any and all field trips.

Thanks to my volunteer spirit, I’ve churned butter in mason jars, eaten sack lunch in the rain while sitting on a stump with an eight-inch diameter, witnessed vomiting children on the school bus, played slug-bug until my arm was a mosaic of bruises, and mustered gleeful enthusiasm regarding the minting of pennies.

My children go on many more field trips than I did as a child. I recall going to our local history museum, which was comprised of mostly guns and old telephones at the time. We went to the Holsum (yes, that is the correct spelling) bread bakery, which didn’t smell as good as you might think. Appropriate field trip venues weren’t abundant in our town. Girl Scout troops toured Pizza Hut’s kitchen as a given.

Did you know we offer two kinds of sausages? Who can tell us the difference?

It wasn’t until high school when I went on the most memorable field trip of my life. It was legendary, and I knew of kids who took Psychology just to get to go on this particular afternoon jaunt away from school.

We toured a local mortuary.

We started in the chapel with a short talk about how bodies are retrieved from homes and the hospital. Then we moved on to the casket shop, where we learned the pros and cons of wood vs. metal, pillow options, lining options and colors, and casket sizes. Urns lined shelves, with examples of all sorts of engraving. We couldn’t help but share with our friends which caskets appealed to us. I liked the cherry wood look with pink satin lining, but no thanks on the lace. Itchy.

From there, we continued to the business side of the mortuary business. We saw the embalming room, with it’s grooved green-blue table, multiple hoses, and red dye to pink people up. I learned how they keep eyes closed without sewing and how folks are dressed in their Sunday best.

The most memorable part was the crematorium.

Let’s just say I don’t want to be cremated. My choice.

Was this the creepiest field trip destination, ever? I don’t think so. In fact, I am grateful I got to see it as a 17-year-old. None of it is a mystery to me, and it caused a lot of self-examination and pondering life and death.

Eventually, we’ll all end up in a similar quiet building with thick carpets and boxes of tissues and a back door unloading dock.

But before that, you might find yourself holding a trash can for a green-faced first grader as the bus bumps along a country road to a pumpkin patch.

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