I was 16. I went to on a 13 day school trip to Europe. My parents agreed to pay a portion, just as they had for my brother when he was in high school. I worked a part time job to save up the rest. All my pennies went straight to financing my first amazing life adventure.
We met at the school to be bused to the airport just over an hour away. Everyone’s parents dropped them off at the designated time. My best friend dropped me off, as my parents were unable to because they had left a few days earlier for their own vacation. Everyone was excited. Hugs all around.
The trip was amazing. We went up the Eifel Tower in France; we all bought wooden shoes in Holland and swatches in Switzerland; in Germany, we toured the real life Disneyland castle, Neuschwanstein Castle; we went to a perfumery in France where all the girls bought something for themselves and the boys bought for the high school sweethearts; we spent hours on a bus; in Belgium, I bought a Belgian Horse memento for my grandparents who raise Belgian horses; as Canadian kids we got an important real life history less at the Vimy Ridge memorial site; we were all deeply touched by our experience at Natzwiller Stuthof Concentration Camp; we went to one of the smallest countries in Europe – Liechtenstein; we ate weird foods, but mostly we lived off McDonalds so that we could eat quickly and go shopping in our free time. We were now cultured world travellers and thought we knew it all. It was pure bliss.
Our return flight to Canada arrived on time. A bus met us at the airport to transport us back to the high school. We were all exhausted. Imagine, a group of 30 high school students, tired after a trip to Europe, who would have suspected? But, it was good exhausted. We had just been on the adventure of a lifetime! We had stories to tell everyone who didn’t come along – our friends, our siblings, and our parents. For most of us, it was our first adventure into the real world, and for some it was even there first time on a plane. So in our naive, sheltered teenage minds, we had just experienced the world!! We were enthralled.
So, when we got off that bus, to meet our parents and family. We all had so much to tell everyone about our adventure. So much so that we all had a sudden burst of energy as the bus pulled in to the school parking lot. We were once again excited and energized. One by one, everyone got off the bus and went to their parents for the obligatory hug and started rambling off stories of the great adventure.
I got off the bus. I looked around for my Dad or my Step-Mom. They were no-where to be found. I had no one waiting for me. I was that kid.
In rather short order, all the other kids left with their parents. Scurrying off to tell their stories and probably sleep off some of the jet leg. I was left standing at the entrance to the school with the last remaining teacher who got stuck waiting with me. I can only imagine how much he wanted to go home and see his family. Instead he drew the short straw, and stood outside waiting with me.
I knew something was up. So, I ran inside and used the school phone. I called my best friend, the conversation was short and went something like this – “Can you come pick me up?” She replied, “Sure, but aren’t you are parents going to pick you up?” All I could say was “apparently not”. I hung up the phone. I told the teacher my parents are on their way. Just a few minutes until they will be here. I lied. I couldn’t bring myself to admit, that my parents forgot me. Apparently, all it took was 13 days, and they forgot about me. The teacher left once he thought I had confirmed that my parents were on their way.
I sat on the front steps to the school until my friend arrived to pick me up. I put my suitcase in her car. We went to her house. I called my parents. Apparently they were tired from a busy day with my much younger step-sister and step-brother, and simply forgot about me. We argued. I was told to drive home as my car was at my friend’s house since they had been unable to drop me off 13 days earlier. We argued some more. I did not drive the 20 minutes home.
I ate supper with my friend’s family. I had lost the keys to my suitcase somewhere between Europe and Canada. So her dad cut the lock, just like a good father would. I washed my clothes, so I’d have something clean to wear the next day. I gave her the small present I bought her in Europe. I spent the night at my friend’s house. I went to school the next day. I went home that evening after school and gave souvenirs to everyone in my family.
They forgot to get me anything from there vacation. I pretended I didn’t notice.
I pretended life was perfect. We all pretended life was prefect.