The coach bumps and we lurch into each others laps, laughing. We sing songs with the lewdest words we know. The teachers yell to keep the noise down, but we’re overtired and giddy; the overnight train didn’t see much sleeping.
Eventually our teacher stands. She says we’re almost there and she reminds us not to run off, or swarm over strangers.
“You’re not the first young people to arrive here after a long journey,” she says. “But yours was much more comfortable than theirs. And unlike the boys you’re going to learn about here, you’ll get to go home tonight.”
This story isn’t a memoir, although I remember the giddiness of school trips and the contrast arriving at desolate historic sites, heavy with grief and tragedy. The lines of flower buckets reminded me of photos I’ve seen of soldiers going to war or people bumpy along dirt roads in less industrialized places. I briefly pondered having the narrator be in the history not looking at it. But I didn’t have the heart to go quite that dark today, so we ended up on a school trip.
Where to is for you to decide, perhaps a concentration camp, a military cemetery… or an historic place from more recently. Maybe it’s the site of a residential school in Canada. The destination is up to the reader.