I have finally recovered from the sickness that plagued my life for the last 10 or so days. I’m not sure if it was the Black Death or allergies, but the cocktail of over-the-counter drugs I took did nothing to stop the symptoms. Sickness cometh after boasting that you haven’t gotten ill in several months.

Several weeks ago I signed up to be a chaperone on an overnight trip AB’s Sunday school class was taking to SeaWorld. This was before the plague, before I knew rain was predicted for the entire weekend, and before I heard that we were taking 25 children instead of 19. I wanted to throw in the towel and stay home with my tissues and useless Benadryl, but I soldiered on. The chaperone/child ratio could not be changed last minute. I tried so hard to hold in the coughing on the bus but alas, I could not. Annabelle was only slightly better. I was sitting behind a lady I’ve been trying to become friends with and I don’t think I made a good impression.

Last year, the girls slept in the dolphin exhibit that gave off a relaxing glow all night. Our beds held up beautifully. We were well organized and on time. It could not have been better. The boys were the weak link the entire weekend. To use an ocean term, how the tides turned this year. Our guides ran behind schedule all evening. They told us we needed to be ready for bed by 11 o’clock as that was when the lights in the manta ray exhibit turned off. Neither guide was aware that there are no lights in that exhibit. The only light comes from one end of what is basically a tunnel. If you aren’t in that part, it’s practically pitch black at night and impossible to see any animals. We used phones as flashlights as we tried to set up beds and get the overtired girls ready to sleep. It was like camping but no one knew to bring a lantern. After many misplaced pillows and lost pajamas, everyone was in bed. A symphony of coughing started from all sides of the tunnel, not only from me and Sesame. I don’t wish sickness on others, but I appreciated that it wasn’t only us. The sound of the water was relaxing and I had just drifted off to sleep when it started to feel like I was in a water bed. My air mattress was deflating. I had to decide whether to suck it up or attempt to reconfigure my whole situation. I went with option B. Just because I was sleeping near water didn’t mean I had to feel like I was IN the water on a floatie that was going to pop at any second. That’s how I ended up in a sleeping bag on a yoga mat on the floor where a million dirty shoes have walked. I haven’t slept on the floor in a while and let me tell you, these bones aren’t what they used to be.

AB took this picture in the morning when the sun was shining into the tank and we could finally see what we were sleeping next to.

The boys had nothing but glowing reviews about their evening. The dolphins danced and played for them all night. Their air mattresses stayed full. To hear them talk, they had full turn-down service with chocolates on the pillows and butlers bringing them breakfast in bed. Their guide found a wagon for their belongings. We pulled our luggage a mile around the park before breakfast, leaving pillows and sweatshirts on the path behind us.

Very early morning, the rain started. Just a little trickle at first, but soon buckets and buckets for hours on end. The children were all in ponchos, waddling through puddles like little ducklings. If I wasn’t already ill, that would have pushed me over the edge. We had some tears, several cold and hungry children, and one little girl who desperately wanted to go home early.

It wasn’t all germs and wet socks. We had fun too. Before the rain got too bad, our group (the less adventurous ones) went on the smaller rides. Annabelle isn’t one for big rides but she loves the little ones and had fun on them with Ann Margaret. I went on two rides with Mercer, who chose to ride with me over his mom who was also a chaperone. That filled my bucket because sometimes it’s nice to know I still have “it” with kids. I know I do with AB, but it’s nice when other people’s children like me also. I like being the involved mom. We visited the animals which are the real stars of SeaWorld. I don’t know why that park even has rollercoasters when you should be there to see beluga whales and penguins.

The kids crowded around the table, eating their French fries and smiling from ear to ear while they talked about how much fun they were having. I loved hearing bits of their conversations. One girl told me, “I eat paper when there is absolutely nothing else in my house to eat.” I know for a fact her family is doing ok, but maybe their recent move has hit them a little harder financially than I thought. A few hours later, another girl was dunking her paper straw wrapper in ranch dressing and then licking the ranch off and chewing on the wrapper. Then my child piped in with what kind of paper she likes to taste. Is this what kids do these days? Are they all eating paper? I’ve been worried about the wrong things.

We got home late that night then were up early because I had to teach Sunday school. As the Bible says, “Those who drive six hours one way to SeaWorld and forget to find a substitute teacher and teach Sunday school earn for themselves a priceless crown made of pearls. Even more priceless is the bag of cough drops they purchase after the lesson.”