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  • Kristie Sharp Williams

Ducklings at Longacre Square

As most young’un’s do, I often thought of a day when I could shake off the dust of Athens, Alabama, and live in a big city. I could not wait to be free of those small-town chains that bind and chaff one’s dreams. And, I made an effort. I went away to school, took a job after college elsewhere. But, ultimately I came home when it got real.


After some time in DC, Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore, and New York City, I’m thinking there are a few teenagers that have changed their minds about the big city life as well.

At a crowded table with waiters and patrons bumping past, a group of our teens sat eating iconic and delicious New York pizza under the stained-glass dome of a renovated 18th-century church building. They were asked what was their favorite place to visit so far. All said Newport, Rhode Island, or listed it in the top two. Newport has about 4,000 less in

population than Athens, Alabama. There were no skyscrapers, no big league sports, no musical productions, and at least half of the shops, restaurants and activities closed early or were closed for the season. Sure, there were parts of all the other places that they liked and that were memorable. How could standing in the home of the president of the United States not be? But comparably, building a snowman along the sidewalk outside a New England town’s dock, or having a snowball fight before boarding the bus after mid-week worship at a tiny roadside congregation, or leisurely enjoying each bite of warm sandwich in the window booth of a cozy local eatery, these kids are hometown kids.


On day 10 of an 11-day field trip that has stretched from that little town of Athens, Alabama, to Boston, Massachusetts, I’m thinking there are two bus loads of people ready to get back. New York is neat to see, but even better to see it while leaving. Not a fan. Too many people, not a fan of people. Too many smells, not a fan of smells.


Backing up a bit, after DC, we had a little break to the hustle which is when we stopped in Newport, Rhode Island. And, I think everybody was ready there at the half-way mark. We had our first blast of honest cold along with quite a bit of snow. Dusted with snow, the beautiful homes and boutique-lined streets of this picturesque New England coastal town was a soothing sight. The snow was fun for the kids, but it made travel to and from worship in the buses a bit treacherous. Even these yankee drivers were spinning and sliding.


From there, we visited Boston for the day before spending the night in New York. I have no real idea what Boston was like because it was so cold and wet I barely looked out from under my hood to see it. I was wearing a thermal-type under shirt, plus a shirt, plus a coat, AND gloves. If I’m wearing a coat, it’s cold. If I’m wearing a coat AND gloves, it’s freezing. If I’m wearing my coat and gloves AND my hood is up, it’s stinking freezing cold. Nevertheless, we continued on with our outdoor tour of the Freedom Trail, which was exceptional, despite the biting weather. The tour guide was super. We ate at Quincy Market, a historical marketplace, and also toured Fenway where we saw the Green Monster.


We arrived in New York City Friday night ready for a full day of the Big Apple on Saturday, but Hg started running a fever. I couldn’t believe it. But, also I could believe it because if it’s going to happen to somebody, it’s going to happen to Hg. I didn’t have a thermometer, but my experience told me that it was pretty high and it was after 3 a.m. sometime before it came down, even while medicated. She felt better in the morning, but I made the call to skip the day’s trip to the Statue of Liberty and 9/11 Memorial to make sure her temp wasn’t going to creep back up through the day and turn into something big. We are on separate buses, so I didn’t know she was feeling bad until we got to the hotel room late that night. I could not be sure what we were dealing with, and did not want to get caught on the other side of New York City if her health declined. We ventured out to Times Square just down the block from our hotel long enough for our room to be cleaned. Thankfully, her temp stayed down, and she has been feeling better, although she is fighting quite a bit of congestion. (I think she was dehydrated and just worn out, so her body took matters into its own hands to make her slow down). We saw the Broadway musical Aladdin that night and had New York cheesecake with friends. Besides Tammie Woodard snoring, I was most entertained by the flying carpet. Fantastic! How did they do that!


Hg had a couple of things to checkmark in New York, and missing the one day really hurt, but mostly she just wanted to make sure that she experienced the day with friends. After worship Sunday morning, we tagged along with others to enjoy New York pizza, Rockefeller Center, Central Park, and Macy’s Department store, but saw several other things along the way like Trump Tower, Bergdorf Goodman store windows, the New York Public Library, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It really eats up your time to walk so much, and unlike the runners in the group, I did not have sports bra on my own packing list. That night, we were able to see the Broadway production of the Lion King, which is Hg’s all-time favorite Disney movie. It was just fabulous, the puppetry was beautiful. I did feel like something was missing, maybe it was the lack of snoring next to me.


Afterward, we ate cheesecake AGAIN (I know!! Who does that!), and then I know the parents were tired because some of the kids wanted to hit Times Square one more time and were left with just Stacey Glover and me as the attending adults. This misplaced confidence in us as adults by their parents could only be justified because of their pure exhaustion and delirium. But, we were diligent. Stacey was the engine and I was the caboose. Ten kids filled in the middle like little ducklings waddling along and short-stepping in the elbow to elbow Times Square after-hours crowd. But, by the time 11:30 pm hit, those kids were begging to go back to the hotel. Amateurs. We were pretty proud though. Stacey and I had the same 10 kids we took with us return with us, no more no less, so we felt pretty good about that.