A 60-plus-year-old tradition continues this weekend when more than 300 area sixth-graders _ including my oldest daughter, Abby _ travel to Washington, D.C., Arlington, Va., and Philadelphia for a four-day sightseeing tour.
The trip is the culmination of a year of civic service as school crossing guards, and for many students, it's the longest they've ever been away from home. The fact that it coincides with Mother's Day is purely logistical; according to trip coordinator Cam Morris of Oneonta Bus Lines, Mother's Day weekend is simply the best time to secure a block of 100-plus hotel rooms in the D.C. area.
For the kids, this is the ultimate field trip: hours of uninterrupted chat time; the chance to visit interesting places such as the White House and the Franklin Science Institute with their friends; and a taste of independence.
For the moms, it's a bittersweet reminder that our kids are growing up, whether we're ready or not.
I went on this trip 27 years ago. I still have photos of friends, smiling in their bright-orange safety patrol belts, and the journal where I listed all the places we visited.
Many things have changed since I was 12. People today are so used to being connected 24/7 that some parents are unnerved by the prospect of not being able to call their kids for four whole days. In addition to the no-cell-phone policy, my daughter's school has an "unplugged" rule, which wasn't necessary back in 1982, when portable music players like the Sony Walkman were just starting to catch on.
But as much as life has changed, the nuts and bolts of the trip will probably be the same. There are some cool new destinations, like the interactive Newseum, but the 555-foot Washington Monument remains the tallest structure in D.C., and the lines of people waiting to tour it will likely be just as long as I remember.