“Do you know where you’re going?” she said.
“Not exactly. Lewis does. Somewhere up in the northeast part of the state, where he’s been fishing. If everything goes off OK, we ought to be back late Sunday.”
“Why wouldn’t it go off OK?”
—Deliverance, by James Dickey
Sort of scary what you can come up with when you want to set the tone of the first morning of a week-long overnight history tour of south Georgia with four eighth grade boys and two seventh grade boys. So I did what any teacher would do. I put on what I call The Shirt of Happiness.
It’s a linen, long sleeve, camp collar-style shirt with checks of blues and aquas and yellows and greens and oranges that can only be described as being deeply inspiring to this particular age group of young knowledge seekers.
When Gary and I got them settled in The Cozy Room of Learning before we set out for Macon, I made sure they saw The Shirt of Happiness and they all seemed thrilled that I would be wearing such a special tunic.
I explained that when I’m wearing The Shirt of Happiness, like I’m doing now, it means I’m happy and pleased with your attitudes and behaviors. And I am perfectly fine wearing The Shirt of Happiness all week and every day. It’s fine with me if it’s okay with you.
They all smiled and we clapped a little bit about it and no one said you really are nuts. So I assumed it really was okay with them because they’ll tell you if you’re nuts.
I bought the shirt out of a catalogue where most of the clothes look like they’d appeal to mobsters … but not this shirt. It’s so bright and obnoxious it’s a crime all by itself.
I further explained that if I switch to a black t-shirt, which I brought with me, which is called The Shirt of Unhappiness, then that means I’m not happy and that they need to do things that make me want to put The Shirt of Happiness back on.
They said they would sure give all this some consideration. They were really nodding at each other and mushing up their lips.
So we’ve got Hap returning for another week of Georgia history field trips … and the new victims this week are three of my eighth grade scholars, Boog, Elmo, and Albert. The two seventh graders are real history eager beavers and their names are Sheldon and Percy. Sheldon and Percy don’t seem scared at all about a week of overnight field trips with Gary and Todd and the other guys.
We’re busting it down I-75 toward Macon … and at two minutes to eleven we hit the Butts County line. I thought of how happy Tempest would have been to pass fast through the real Butts County. I think I’ll tell her about the happy moment when we get back of us passing through Butts County. I know, without a doubt, that she’ll ask me if I took a picture of the road sign.
We get to Macon and we’re really looking forward to the first part of our learning experience when we pull up to the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.
Which is closed on Mondays.
The scholars start to eye me sideways.
Plus, I can’t seem to get the bus alarm to go off. This is extremely embarrassing when you’re in such a nice town as Macon.
Gary laughs a certain laugh that you can direct at another teacher without the idiot teacher in question getting all mad.
Believe me. I understand.
Gary calls the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame which is across the street to see if they’re open. Which is also closed on Mondays.
I explained to the group that when I planned our south Georgia week before we went on Christmas break I really didn’t think to check the days of operation of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame and the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. Obviously.
Boog said then why don’t we go eat.
I said that’s a great idea … Gary had us a good bar-b-que joint picked out … but before we started for the bar-b-que joint I said I have a plan C and that was to go by the Big House on Vineville Street, which was where the Allman Brothers Band members used to live and now it’s a museum in their honor.
Which is also closed on Mondays.
The bar-b-que was real good.
We sped through Savannah and out to Tybee Island and found a little side street where we parked the bus and walked out to the Atlantic Ocean, which is one of the most extremely historic places on Earth. The ocean. So there.
Lurlene had asked for a couple of updates a day since we were out travelling the state of adventure in a state of confusion with children of tuition-paying parents who deeply care about the happiness and safety of their chill-ren and this is where I decided to call her and to confess about the Georgia Music Hall of Fame and the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame awfulness … as I gazed at the Atlantic Ocean in The Shirt of Happiness. I wasn’t going to mention the Big House awfulness, however. Why pile on?
Lurlene said … Well, aren’t you lame.
Hap and Boog and Albert and Elmo were chasing seagulls and laughing.
Sheldon and Percy weren’t chasing seagulls. They were happily watching.
Gary was snapping pictures of the seagull chasers.
Lurlene huffed a little bit again and asked me … Well … are the chill-ren at least having fun?
I turned around and watched them for a moment. I said to Lurlene … Listen … can you hear the ocean?
The sun was shining just over the tops of the wooden beach houses. Sea shells and seagull footprints were everywhere. No one had caught a seagull. Not even come close. But four of them were really trying to.
Lurlene said she heard the ocean. She seemed real happy to have a teacher call her and allow her to hear the ocean.
I could tell. I told Lurlene that fun was being had and that we’d go see Tomo-chi-chi tomorrow. I told her that as far as I knew, Savannah was open.
Next Entry ... January 12: Dispatch From Yamacraw Bluff