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Field Trip, a diminutive fairytale

Updated on October 6, 2012
Representation of "Knowledge" in a stained-glass window designed by Edward Burne-Jones. In Rochdale (Clover Street) Unitarian Church. Manufactured by Morris &Co, Morton Abbey, Manchester, England.
Representation of "Knowledge" in a stained-glass window designed by Edward Burne-Jones. In Rochdale (Clover Street) Unitarian Church. Manufactured by Morris &Co, Morton Abbey, Manchester, England. | Source

Aria, my young daughter, was so disappointed when her school's field trip was cancelled. I surprised her with a replacement trip she didn't see coming...

A number of years ago, shortly before she turned eight, my daughter was supposed to go on a field trip to the Brevard zoo with her school. She loves animals and had been looking forward to that day of fun with her friends, going out of town, eating out, with no parents to look over her shoulder. So, when it was announced earlier that day that the trip was cancelled, she was devastated. I mean, that evening, Apollinaria wouldn't stop crying, no matter what her mother and I would possibly try. We had named her Apollinaria in reference to Guillaume Apollinaire, the French poet and art critic. Of course, this was too long of a name to use on a regular basis, so we usually called her Aria, to the delight of her Mom who has a passion for opera. So that evening, Aria was nonconsolable, and after a while, her sadness started to rub on me. When suddenly, I saw the light :

- "Aria, come to see me, darling !"

- "Yes Daddy:. Enormous tears rolling down her lovely little face.

- "Listen, tomorrow, I'm going to take the day off. I'll also call your school to tell them you're not feeling well, and you and I will make up our own field trip , just the two of us, how's that ?" Her mother was looking at me in complete disbelief, with half a smile on her face, but I knew she would not interfere.

- "Oh Daddy, you're so cool, you're the best dad in the whole world. Where will we go ?"

- "We'll see, let me sleep on it !

The next morning, the three of us had breakfast together before my wife left for work. Then I called my own office and told them I wouldn't be in that day. I called Aria's school as well. And suddenly we were free...and Aria was ecstatic. We took my old beat up Jaguar XJ6 for the short trip to the temple.

The Temple was a modern building made of concrete, steel and glass. Lots of glass. Even though it appeared as if it could have been designed by Frank Lloyd Wright or Le Corbusier,it was most likely the brainchild of a local, but talented, unknown architect. It had been obvioulsly intended to let the light in, but also, in many ways I could sense, to let the light out. We walked in through the tall glass doors and, on impact, the place spoke volumes. We were greeted by a man who turned out to be Antoine de Saint-Exupery, creator of The Little Prince, whom he was holding by the hand. Antoine made the suggestion that the Prince should show Aria around, which would give her more of a child's perspective, and I agreed. As he was still talking to me I looked to my left and there, sitting at a table was Ernest Hemingway, demonstrating some fancy fishing moves with the help of large arm movements for the benefit of John Steinbeck, facing him. As we walked by their table, I could overhear Ernest saying to John :

- "I'll take you on a fishing trip all right, but make sure you bring something to drink along with you". I was mesmerized by the place. From far away, I could see Aria and The Little Prince had settled at a table where Walt Disney and Mickey had joined them. Antoine and I passed in front of a temporary buffet, where Oprah Winfrey, was frantically directing a bunch of busy women making and serving pancakes and coffee. We then entered another room, filled with people as well. The first table there was occupied by Ed McBain, conversing with James Hadley Chase and Janet Evanovitch. At the next table, John Grisham and John Irving were devising a new world according to Garp. Sitting in a quiet corner, I could spot a group of ladies within whom I would recognise Daphne duMaurier, Jane Austen, and Catherine Cookson. At the next table, the Bronte sisters, Charlotte and Emily, were playing bridge with the Brothers Karamazov, under the protective eye of Fyodor Dostoievski. Ivan Turgenev introduced us to his first love, while a pensive Leo Tolstoi was scratching his beard. Later, I saw Sir Winston Churchill and Charles de Gaulle nodding politetly to each other, but certainly without excess. They then both sat at adjoining tables, but back to back. Expected ! Mother Theresa was conversing with Martin Luther King Jr. while Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, Herve Bazin, Francoise Sagan and Marguerite Duras were tasting a French red wine which seemed to be to everyone's liking. As we walked from one group to the other, I got to meet Victor Hugo, Jules Verne, Leonardo da Vinci, Emile Zola, Honore de Balzac who brought his cousin Bette along, and Truman Capote. There were a lot of people there, and I mean a lot. I've only mentioned a few I happen to know, but many more were there, waiting to be discovered. Martha Stewart offered us to sit for a minute on a sofa which cushions she had just rearranged for us, and we were happy to oblige. We didn't see the time go by.

Suddenly, shortly before 5.00 PM, a brouhaha started and everybody started to walk away from the large lobby. In the span of a few short minutes, the whole crowd had disappeared in an orderly manner and the whole place became incredibly silent and deserted. Aria reappeared and we met by the door. I noticed she was carrying a small stack of documents under her arm :

- "What is this, honey ?" I asked her.

- "Oh Daddy, the Little prince drew some sheep for me, and Mr Disney made a painting specially for me. Look, it's Mickey, Donald, Pluto and Goofy playing poker together".

- "Wow, those will be treasurable memories,darling"

I wasn't lying when I said the place spoke volumes. As we were slowly walking back towards the Jaguar, I was mentally writing a note to the principal of my daughter's school to excuse her absence for the day. Aria took my hand and asked :

- "Daddy, what kind of temple is it that you took me to. I loved it".

- Well, that, my little girl, is the temple of knowledge, creativity and culture.

- "Is there a special name for it, Daddy ?"

- "Yes, Aria, it is called your local library, and you're welcome to come back anytime you want...

Copyright 2012 by Austinhealy, his heirs and assigns.


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