In the sixth grade, one of my favorite teachers Mrs. Arnold (now Mrs. Feix I think) encouraged all of her students to read voraciously. She compiled a long list of Newberry Honor books and we had several months to read as many as possible and do a small book report on each one. She gave us Garfield stickers and bookmarks, but the real prize was a trip to the University of Kentucky in Lexington where we would discuss the books we had read that year with selected English instructors from across the state that made up a Newberry Panel.
|Letter from my Mom|
Now I loved a good field trip. And I loved reading. I had my nose in a book every day that year, walking to class and reading in the hallways, bumping into kids along the way. I hid a flashlight under my pillow at home so that I could really attack the reading list. I read almost 80 books that year - killer - and yet still didn't beat John Lynch, who I think beat me by a couple of books. Grrr... Still, I got to go on the field trip to UK.
The part I remember most about this field trip was that after we went to the panel, Mrs. Arnold took us to Chi-Chi's, a chain restaurant specializing in Mexican food. I was immediately worried! I'd never had Mexican food and just knew I wouldn't like anything on the menu. My dad was a meat and potatoes man, the king of bland food, and my mom only cooked things he liked. So we ate roast beef and cornbread and green beans and eggs, but we didn't hammer them with pepper, onions, or tobasco sauce. Puh-lease!
The other kids were stoked, but I was a nervous wreck looking over the menu, too embarrassed to ask the difference between a taco and a chimichanga. The music was carnival-esque blaring from the speakers and pinatas and big hats hung from the the ceiling. I must admit liking the festivity of it all, but my stomach was too tied up for me to really enjoy it. I was a fish out of water - no, a mariachi out of costume - and I couldn't relax. (FYI - middle school is all about fitting in.)
My friends were dipping into the chips and salsa like old pros, but I figured it would be too spicy for me, so I tried to sneak chips sans-salsa when my friends weren't looking. And then the waiter appeared.
"I'll go last," I said quickly, ducking back under my menu.
"I'll have a chicken quesadilla." Oh, 'dee-ya.' I would've gone with 'dill-a.' This is so stressful.
"Steak fajitas for me." 'Fa-hee-tas?' Was there anything on this menu I could even pronounce?
"Taco salad with a side of guac." Everything sounded so exotic.
"A hot dog!" I shrieked with glee. I looked up at the waiter, my face full of joy. I had scoured the menu and finally found the Kid's Menu on the back. Truthfully, I didn't like being thought of as a kid anymore, but technically, I wasn't twelve... yet.
My friends cocked their eyebrows along with the waiter, but I confidently ordered a hot dog with fries, my blood pressure returned to normal, and I finished the day wiser - not only in the way of books, but in culinary experiences as well.