Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Life is A Maze(ing)

     If you're ever feeling a little out of sorts with the world, a little unsettled, a little discouraged, nothing will put things into perspective quite like a field trip with a bunch of four year olds. It's hard not to smile when thirty little pairs of eyes are sparkling with glee and bursting with anticipation over a bus ride to a pumpkin patch.  I, aka "Aunt Be-yeth", had the honor of accompanying my niece, Madison, not once, but TWICE, on a fall field trip with her pre-K, half-day, four-year-old, wildly enthusiastic class.  My joy was doubled when our first attempt to the pumpkin patch ended with a downpour, and glory hallelujah!, we GOT TO GO BACK AGAIN THE NEXT WEEK!!! (deep breath, deep breath.....)
    Our first adventure began the day before with a spend the night party, because, as you can imagine, a field trip to the pumpkin patch is a VERY BIG DEAL, and VERY BIG DEALS call for a little something extra. It had to include a spend-the-night-party. Madi arrived Tuesday evening, bags packed and head a-spinning with all the wonderful things she had planned for her two-day celebration. We played Candyland, read a gazillion stories, brushed our teeth, said our prayers, and hopped into bed, hoping to fall fast asleep. But it's oh-so-hard to fall asleep when you have a field trip the next day, don't you remember? So we sang a few songs, read a few more stories, gave a few backrubs, but still, things weren't going so well. Someone tossed and turned and needed a drink and needed a story and needed another song.  By midnight, Aunt Be-yeth was getting a little grumpy, realizing 7:00 was only minutes away and she needed her full 8-hours before delving into a pumpkin patch with four year olds. At that point, Aunt Be-yeth switched into her mommy voice and said, "Either go to sleep or we don't go to the pumpkin patch tomorrow." I had forgotten how easily that worked.
      Bright and early the next morning, after just one cup of coffee, Madi and I hopped on the big yellow bus for our big field trip together. We arrived at Cotton Hills Farm on an overcast morning, with occasional droplets of rain threatening our fun as we entered the maze.  We darted and dashed up one row and down another, getting stopped at some turns and meeting success at others, as we worked our way through the puzzle that had been carved into the surrounding field. We dodged fire-ant hills,  got lost in intersecting circles, bumped into each other as we backtracked, and ran and shouted our way through the stalks and leaves.It was a perfect life lesson not only for the four year olds, but especially for the adults, as we met one failure after another with smiles and determination, as we rounded curves only to be met with an-in-your-face-dead-end, as we diligently turned around and kept going, seeking solutions to each challenging bend in the path.  As we worked our way through the maze, the occasional droplets became more frequent and the clouds darkened and billowed in sky.   What began as a drizzle in the maize-maze had turned into a gully-washer by the time we found our way out of the field, and we quickly hit the path that led into the barn. What we had hoped was just a passing cloudburst eventually settled in as a steady downpour. It was obvious to the adults that the field trip was over, and even though the pre-K's were wildly optimistic, we herded them all safely back into the dry confines of the bus.  You can only imagine how different the ride home was compared to the ride over. No hay ride + no pumpkin patch= some very disappointed, very quiet, very sullen little kids.
    Luckily ( did I really just say that?), luckily the trip was rescheduled and glory, hallelujah! we were going again!! Repeat of above schedule the very next Tuesday, only this time, Aunt Be-yeth nixed the extra stories and the extra songs and immediately said, "Go to sleep!" My, my, worked again!
     Round two of the pumpkin patch was a much more successful outing. By this time, I was a pre-K, half-day, four-year-old kindergarten pro. I had memorized the "Class Agreement," and realized that those five simple rules were all one needed for life:
1. I will be a good friend.
2. I will be a good listener.
3. I will take care of our school.
4. I will keep my hands and feet to myself.
5. I will use nice words.
( I am thinking of asking the pre-K, half-day, four-year-olds to mail a copy to every member of Congress and every politician in the nation.) We efficiently and politely boarded the bus, keeping our hands to ourselves and using only nice words as we plodded down the highway and headed back to the farm.   
      The second time around, we were greeted with a classic fall day. High blue skies and a slight gentle breeze were all we had to contend with as we climbed into the hay-filled tractor, bumped along an old dirt road through the woods, and then bounced through the cotton fields and  into the pumpkin patch. 
 Every leaf, every lingering flower, every migrating bird and every fluttery butterfly....all were points of wonder for this excited bunch. They brought a freshness and joy to such simple sights....a horse! a pond! a pumpkin! a tree!....that it brought a calmness and a serenity that this aging soul needed. 
     To see life through the eyes of a four-year old, to be disappointed one minute but full of glee the next, to happily run through life's crazy, tangled maze and laugh all the way to the end, to be filled with awe at a butterfly or a leaf or a tree, to live obediently by five simple makes you wonder why adults have to make things so messy and complicated.  As we rounded the bend and passed the field, with a tractor full of little laughing voices and a deep blue sky above, I could only affirm, with a smile on my face, that Life truly is A Maze-ing!!

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