Crisis averted but barely so. The first few days back from being away from anything for a week guarantees a wobbly re-entry. I’ve long since accepted that my first day back from a week’s holiday will see me at best, returning phone calls and clearing only the crucial work related emails. The same holds true for fifth grade teachers and fifth graders.
Ten year old LFG rolled in from Florida forty-eight hours before the resumption of school and like any elementary school child, a preference for a few more days of vaycay was her norm. But science project deadlines loomed so my young’un reluctantly got herself back in the ballgame. Don’t get me wrong, she’s a good academic citizen…straight A’s last report card and I’d humbly posit that fifth grade is when a palpable level of academic rigor begins. Oh, and we had a poetry project and a Langston Hughes book review to nail down.
No big deal. I was in town to assist…at least the first two days of the week before my Dallas jaunt. Now the science project (And I’m trying not to project my dismay amidst assisting LFG—but they don’t allow the proverbial mud volcano with baking soda and vinegar anymore…that was my ONLY science project ever. I was more of a social sciences—humanities man—even before I was a man) is a month long journey with interim checkpoints and deliverables. The endgame for the project is to teach these kids a rather basic version of the scientific method…hypothesis…independent and dependent variables…findings...write up and conclusion. Even with my no-volcano junk I’m bringing to the event, I’ll be fine as LFG’s helper. Butcept a couple of steps had been taken in experiment selection and hypothesis without my involvement.
Still no big deal…I don’t think. I pick LFG up from school last Monday and head straight to the Bethesda Library. We crack the science project binder and within fifteen minutes I realize that she’s made a woefully bad pick for her project. She’s already declared it and has scratched out a tentative hypothesis and a couple of potential ways to control a variable or two to then measure “something.” My heart plummets when I realize what a goat rodeo we are about to attend if indeed my ten year old tries to measure “the impact of various light colors on mood”. Finding four or five different light colors and sequestering a valid sample size, one at a time, of her peers, in a room for enough time for each color light, and attempting to quantify “mood”…Oy. I frowed up a little bit in the back of my throat.
Diplomatic skills plied in the hushed atmosphere of the Bethesda Library would have to keep my child from getting upset…at least to the point where she could regain her composure and our time could be refocused on a suitable replacement. The experiment, hypothesis, methodology and materials involved report was due Wednesday morning. And of course I still thought I’d be in Archer City Texas by mid afternoon on Wednesday. Here’s what happened…we went from despair to fragile optimism within about an hour and a half. A new experiment was agreed upon and we drafted a basic process outline and materials list.
By then it was time to saddle up and grab a bite to eat before dropping LFG at her mom’s. But much needed to be done before the science project interim deliverables deadline of Wednesday and we had other work to do. That’s what Tuesdays are for. I scratched my afternoon commitments, fetched LFG from school and we spent all of Tuesday, up till bedtime tightening up one hundred percent of all her school deliverables. By the time I dropped her at school and headed to Texas, we were back on track. And now we can actually enjoy the remainder of the science project journey.
So how do you reward the maturity and pluck of a child on Monday afternoon after she’s been left momentarily bereft? After she’s had a little gut punch and so quickly regained her poise and focus? Easy. You take a trip on the Orient Express.
Paris to Istanbul in elegance known only to a former generation...when the en route experience focused on a level of finery and deportment that’s extinct today…in any transit mode. I actually saw a butt crack on the plane to Dallas Wednesday morning and I still can’t get the ghastly image expunged from my lobes.
LFG needed nourishment before I dropped her off at mom’s and I needed a martini. LFG was slightly under-dressed for the Orient Express but she charmed her way on board none the less.
We were seated in the dining car immediately and wouldn't you know it, Hercule Poirot made his way over to our table. He vetted our revised science project hypothesis and dependent/independent variables, concluding that we were, like our dining car, on the right track. I asked Poirot before he bid us adieu if he, as a Belgian, had any connections back home that could get me access to the small, family owned factory that turns (inside out actually) out Belgian loafers. He wiggled his mustache and promised that he’d get back to me.
LFG sashayed her way to our dining car table, still swathed in her Safety Patrol belt. Upon removal, it remained on our table...a gentle reminder that there was law enforcement on the train and that indeed, there would be no murders--not on this night--on the Orient Express.
All of the Orient Express cars are outfitted superbly but the dining car was exceptionally well appointed. LFG and I immediately agreed that the paint patterns in the dining car were similar to the fanned patterns of gold leaf that Whistler and Walter Greaves used on Leyland’s Peacock Room.
We've got an entire library on Whistler and enough Peacock Room references for you to come over and take a deep dive into all things Whistler. Join us sometime.
I think LFG got a little exasperated after about the fifth time I asked her if she could get my grip from the overhead rack…I was craving a little bit of after dinner snuff and my sterling snuff tin remained above.
So a well deserved Orient Express journey with the legendary Clyde’s Chili prevailing as comfort food apropos. Just the thing to inaugurate a refocused school project journey.
Our little train pulled out of the station and we headed home to rest up for day-two of our academic reorientation and 2011 scholarly tactics.
If you decide on the Orient Express, it can be found at Clyde’s Chevy Chase…a destination manifest in endlessly delightful examples of an era when deportment, decorum and swathing mattered before you boarded. And I’d recommend gents, that you wear a shoe similar to this when boarding the Paris to Istanbul carriage. It may not be Cleverley but the price point, after Christmas, was so clever that it may as well be.
Onward. In side gusseted punch toed shodding. Scientifically.
ADG and LFG