Nothing says, “Hey son (or daughter) I love you", like a field trip to the Museum of Natural History in New York City. After more than 3 hours of headache inducing bus fun, we made it into the hallowed halls of the monstrous museum along with 85 percent of NYC’s boroughs kids. Like ants looking for food, we were off, looking for Gum Gum. If you saw the movie, Night at the Museum, how could you forget, “Hey Dum dum, I want gum gum!” The search was on. We hustled like line backers through the hall of ancient civilizations, but admittedly slowed down to get a good sixth grade laugh out of some anatomically correct ancient statues. We joyfully found the famed Easter Island hunk (of rock). As I gazed upon it, I wondered if this priceless artifact could be real if they were letting kids touch it with sticky orange Cheetos fingers.
The kids had the dreaded obligatory work sheets to fill out, you know, the ones that would force us to stop and read. I had offered to take one for the team and catch the blame for “losing” them since I am known for being disorganized. They must have known I was coming because there were extras in the packet. When I asked my son what he most liked about the trip, he admitted that it was the exhilarating minute or two when a T-rex chased he and his friends up the stairs. For me, it was the half hour I got to take a nap in the Hayden Planetarium while over the loudspeaker, Whoopie Goldburg pondered the origins of the universe.
The main highlight of the trip for the kids was found outside the museum in the form of edible paper they got to eat that had been wrapped around an ice cream sandwich they bought from a food kart. For me the most memorable part was while sitting on the bus, whacking the messed up tv over and over again as it tried to play (you guessed it), Night at the Museum.
For many sixth grade parents, this would be one of our last school excursions that we would embark upon with our growing little ones. For a few moments, I would feel a twinge of sadness as a precious chunk of my life has gone by. It’s been a long time since my first visit here when I was just five years old. The dust covering the poor critters in the “Hall of Stuffed Animals” has accumulated since my first visit so long ago. This Museum is without question, a right of passage for all.
I walked out into the bright sunlight side by side with my boy. He hadn’t asked for a token from the gift shop, another sign that he was growing up. He looked at me and thanked me for coming. In the blink of an eye, a life happens and we’re fortunate to grab on to it.
At 74, My mother still talks of my 7th grade trip to the Bronx Zoo like it was yesterday. She too experienced the noisy bus ride, the silly work sheets and the organized chaos. Neither of us would trade it for anything. Like my mom, I wont soon forget these moments with my kids. Thankfully, I have the picture of the T-rex to prove we were all there.