Monday was a field trip for my boy. His class was going to the Amherst College Neurobiology Lab to learn about brains. There was some talk of my possibly being a driver for the trip (no buses at his school), but in the end I was not needed. I washed with a combination of relief and disappointment. I am always reluctant to commit to driving for many reasons. Number one, I can’t be sure with my illness if I will feel well enough. Number two, my truck is an old girl, runs well but… Number three, the truck only fits two kids, a waste of gas. Number four, I am far too anxious about getting lost, breaking down, getting in an accident, etc. My disappointment was that I love all things to do with the human body. His class is going to be touching brains and drawing from specimens. I wanted to do that!
So, Monday morning rudely arrives and the boy is in tears. He didn’t know that I was not driving and he really wanted me to go. We have a romantic history of spending entire days at museums with our journals and drawing together(yes, it is possible for a nine-year old boy to be a hopeless romantic and my boy certainly is) . Remarkably, he has been drawing in a journal since he was about three when he grew curious of mine. Even more remarkable is that he truly will sit for hours in a museum and draw. My partner refuses to go with us as an hour or two is too much already. So the museum trips have become our special thing. We even play hooky occasionally which makes me way cool. I like to be the cool mamma. Who doesn’t? Anyway, he assumed I was coming and we would get to draw together. So, I caved. Gleefully, he ran about the house gathering our usual museum bundle; two journals, and a pencil box. Not just any pencil box. This was filled with premium equipment; three erasers(white, kneadable and stick), many pencil sharpeners(robot-shaped, lava-filled, dog-shaped, double, and standard) endless pencils ranging from 6h to 6b as well as mechanical, shading sticks, some charcoal and a few colored pencils.
Loaded up, we arrived at his school hoping it would be okay if I tagged along. It turned out to be one of those fate confirming moments as one of the parents was stranded with a broken down car. I swallowed my irrational anxiety and slid in line with the caravan of cars heading off to Amherst College with two boys in stow. I had my eyes burned onto the back of the grey Subaru knowing I would not get lost if I kept them in view. Just as I was thinking to myself “This isn’t too bad.” and began to relax, I heard a strange whistling noise every time we came to a stop. My blood rushed. Here it comes! The dreaded breakdown! I stared hard at the hood of my truck at every stoplight as if the hood was going to explode. And it was at one of these lights that I lost sight of that damn grey Subaru. My palms were now sweaty. Outside I am laughing at jokes that make sense only to nine-year old boys, trying to sustain my cool mom status while inside a code three melt down is on the cusp. Only then did I remember the sheet of paper his teacher handed me. It had phone numbers and directions. Whew! Just let me get to the college before the truck falls apart. Finally there, I turn off the main road and the whistling noise passes behind me. It was a different car. Whew, again.
My shirt now reeked of sweat. Yes, I used deodorant but no deodorant can defend against nervous sweat. So while we listened to the neurobiologist talk about brains, I kept my distance and my arms crossed, making a mental note to relegate this shirt to the pajama pile. The professor (a white-haired, fully bearded, skinny santa type with round spectacles) tossed the brain of a fifty-four year old who died in a nearby town back and forth in his hands as he explained the different sections and there functions. Now, I am not squeamish about these things but I would rather have not known the history of its previous owner. As he squished and wiggled and turned this brain about, I noticed that most of the girls in the class were in far corner, closest to the door. In fact a small posse of girls suddenly had to go to the bathroom. While most of the boys, instead, were sitting at the same table as the professor frantically raising their hands to volunteer, question and comment. The gender gap seems most firmly established by this age. According to my son, all but maybe two girls are definitely gross!
After our talk with the professor and an optional chance to touch the brain, which of course I did (felt like a loaf of lunch meat), we moved on to a lab where we were supplied with sheep’s brains to draw. My boy and I pulled out our supplies and got busy. He lost me at the word go. The lab, the teachers, the kids, I heard none of it. All I saw and thought about was the brain until the teacher poked me and said it was time to clean up. I looked up to find I was the only one left to put things away. It was a great day and I was feeling confident so I swerved off the established route home to take a back road. Immediately, I regretted it realizing that I probably broke some carpool rule and what if the truck died? What if I take longer to get back to the school and they think something has happened? The sweat soaked through my armpits and the shirt ,by the end of the trip, was no longer pajama worthy and down graded to a rag.