“Now remember class, because of the snow days this year, we didn’t get as far into our science chapter about the terrapins as far as we had planned. So today when we go on our field trip, we are really going to learn about the lifecycle of the terrapin and their impact on our local environment,” the young, hip third grade teacher declared as we all anxiously awaited to bus up for our field trip to the Flag Ponds Nature Park.
My son sat in the desk in front of me, randomly twisting some wire he randomly pulled out of his pocket. He still was excited that I was chaperoning and I knew my days of doing so for him were numbered. Soon I would no longer be ‘cool’ enough. Funny boy. It’s like he doesn’t realize how cool I really am.
Although I was quite cool, I was from Deer River. And in Deer River, we did not have terrapins. Honestly, I had no idea what the #%&! a terrapin was. But I was going to find out today. And so of course, I would not let on that I did not know. Not even to Joey.
The scenery at the beach was beautiful- right out of a magazine. The Chesapeake Bay was in all of its glory on that fine April morning. The sun sparkled down upon the waves and the breeze blew a chilled freshness over the sand. The shorelines were long and slender with a path of darkness stained by the outgoing tide.
We (the chaperones) were all assigned a station. Mr. Fred (a park volunteer) went through our instructions explicitly as we were to check the Bay’s salinity, measure the beach for areas conducive for laying eggs, and stream a net through the water for the fun of watching the children wear waders and fall down in the water. (I’m sure that was the reason) And of course, they loved it! We all did. What a glorious way to spend the morning- even if we had to discipline the 3rd grade boys to leave the large chunks of driftwood on the ground. Okay, I guess it was mostly just Joey I was disciplining (no surprise there).
The children were learning about their native environment- how to respect it and take care of it. And just as I had once learned about respectful logging, making maple syrup, canoes from birch trees, wolves, bears, and freshwater lakes, my children were learning about the Chesapeake Bay and its riches. They were taught about the tradition of oyster drudging, preserving the beaches and pines, the crabs and…terrapins. And yes, I still could not figure out what the #@$# a terrapin was.
The park volunteer began instructing the children- adding together the results of our day’s discoveries. And that’s when she made the mistake that would cost her. It wasn’t her fault. Someone should have warned her. She couldn’t have known what would happen when she used the ‘algorithm’ method of math. But when she carried that number into the tens place- it was too late. She damn near was stoned on the spot by those innocent looking kids. All of the third graders did common core math now. It was crazy math that changed everything about math as we knew it. I knew then and there I wouldn’t be raising any more waves today by asking silly questions.
So I began my own logic: deductive reasoning.
I knew Maryland had some amazing stingrays and skates that were really a neat part of the environment but then when they spoke of laying eggs on the beach, I determined that it could not, in fact, be a stingray. Perhaps a crab?
Then they spoke about the Bycatch Reduction Device (BRD) on crab pots- how the crabs would swim into them, but the terrapins could swim out. So nope, it was not a crab.
Eventually the buses came and went. School ended and everyone went home. Had dinner. Kids did their homework. It wasn’t until I was out sipping a beautiful well-earned glass of wine (it was just that kind of day) out on the porch, telling my dear friend about the day when it dawned on me. I still didn’t know.
It was in that moment that I turned to her, looked her square in the eye, and asked with the utmost of importance, “Please, can you tell me what the #$%@ a terrapin is?!?”