The apple orchard was hot that day, unseasonably hot for October. We stood on the edge of the parking lot – the field trip chaperones and me – making small talk as we squinted down the dirt road for any sign of the school bus.
"Wow, I should have worn shorts," I laughed to the mom standing next to me as I wiped my brow.
"Yeah, it's really starting to warm up," she said. "I should have thrown a cold beer in my purse." Our laughs tapered off and our eyes glazed over as we were now tortured with the impossible thought that had blossomed into something beautiful in both our minds.
I'd been looking forward to this day for quite some time. A chance for me to hang out with my kindergartner and watch her interact with the new friends she had made on her own – it was the stuff I'd been dreaming about since I found out I was pregnant. Field trips were always so much fun when I was little and I couldn't wait to relive those memories with my daughter.
A hush fell over us as the bus rounded the corner, kicking up a wake of dust and belching to a stop. The kids filed off one by one and I spotted the teacher, who seemed to be walking with a little spring in her step.
"You have these four kids in your group," she said to me. "Here is your packet. It contains the assignment they need to complete and schedule for the day. They eat lunch at 11:30. They're going to ask for it starting around 9:30. Don't be fooled by their tricks." Her eyelid twitched a little when she said the last part.
"Where will you be if I need you?" I asked, my voice cracking slightly as I suddenly found myself nervous.
She spontaneously vanished into thin air.
BEETLEJUICE, BEETLEJUICE, BEETLEJUICE!
"Relax," I told myself. "They're just kids."
"Yeah — someone else's kids and good luck in prison if anything happens to them," I answered myself.
I looked at the four kids who I was now charged with keeping alive for the next several hours. As we made our way into the orchard, I sized them up and deduced I had "The Runner," "The Crier,""The Manipulator"(my daughter), and "The Hungry One."
"Okay guys! Who's ready to pick some apples?" I tried to set the tone with enthusiasm and also establish my no-nonsense attitude. I found it's best to show kids who's in charge right away.
"My mom lets me eat whenever I want," The Hungry One said. "I hallucinate when I get too hungry." I remembered what the teacher told me.
"That's interesting," I replied. "Today lunch is at eleven thir . . . HEY! Where did that little one go?" The Runner was a spindly little thing with a mop of hair that weighed about as much as she did and now she was gone.
"HI, ELLIE'S MOM!" The voice came from above my head.
Slowly I looked up and saw her about three quarters of the way up the apple tree — waving ferociously. I had only turned away for a moment – she must have leaped up there using demon powers.
The Crier momentarily peeked her blotchy face out from behind a tree to assess the situation, probably looking for more reasons to cry.
"Mom, you never came in to kiss me goodnight last night so can I have something from the gift shop?" My daughter activated the puppy dog eyes.
"Do you have any salami?" I felt a tug on my shoulder and looked down to see The Hungry One rummaging through my purse. "I also like corn nuts."
Less than 30 minutes in and I was already losing control. This day was playing out way differently than in my mind before I had kids.
"AAAH! Come down right now!" I said, yanking my purse back and squinting up into the tree. "Wait. First grab that big red one next to your head for this one," I said, motioning to The Hungry One with my thumb.
The next four hours were a journey into field trip hell. I spent at least 45 minutes certain I would be making a call to The Runner's mom with the disappointing news that her daughter was lost in the corn maze forever.
"I'm so sorry," I imagined myself saying, smoothing out my orange jump suit. "I tried my best, but I'm pushing 40. My back hurts and I pee if I walk too fast. I'm sure she'll go on to have a nice life living in the corn maze. It's time to move on now."
I don't think The Hungry One had eaten in two years. I provided a continuous stream of apples and it didn't even make a dent in that bottomless pit of a stomach. Lunch only seemed to make it worse. "Do you have anything else?" she asked, patting down my pockets and sniffing my hair.
The crier just cried. I told her to go find The Runner and tried to ditch her in the corn maze, but she was like Black Hawk Down and I couldn't shake her.
Our group reported back to the pick-up point 20 minutes early, and were the last ones to arrive. The Runner was there waiting for us – I hadn't even noticed she had gone missing again. Nobody did the assignment and I didn't care. My mission was accomplished because they were all alive. I couldn't wait to get them delivered back onto the bus and off my watch.
I noticed the other chaperones huddled together a few yards away.
"I had a real handsy one," I heard one mom whisper, pulling her cardigan tighter around her body.
"Oh yeah? Well I had 'The Urinator,'" one dad chimed in, pointing to his damp shoelace.
Suddenly the teacher appeared, looking refreshed. "Well how did it go?" She asked us cheerfully.
That's when the lightbulb clicked on and I realized what this all really was – an elaborate plan to get us to give her more alcohol this holiday season. I knew my daughter was going to get an excellent education this year.
Hannah Mayer is a nationally award-winning blogger, humor columnist and exponentially blessed wife and mother of three. She would trade everything for twelve uninterrupted hours in a room with Jon Hamm and two Ambien. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter or at her blog, sKIDmarks.