In 1990, our school decided to give their students a field trip. It would be an "educational experience" as one teacher put it; all the 1st and 2nd graders were going to "Babyland." When I heard about the opportunity going to Babyland, I was so excited. My mother was pregnant at the time and I thought "Babyland" would teach me so much; heck, I could become the perfect older brother for my new brother/sister.
It's important to note here that English is not my primary language, and neither of my parents spoke or read English. As a first grader, I basically translated the best to my knowledge the field trip to my parents. I really emphasized on the location "Babyland," although there were additional words to the location's name, I had no idea what it meant and left it out of the translation. My parents agreed and allowed me to go on this trip, I've never been so happy.
On the day of, I brought all the required equipment the school asked us to bring, which are: crayons, chalk, or colored pencils; several sheets of blank art paper, and a sheet to sit down on. I remember imagining the picnic we would have, and the babies that would sit at my picnic area; all the art skills I could show to these babies... I was extremely happy and anxiously waiting for the school trip.
When we got to school, I was surprised at how many students decided not to show up or did not get permission to go to "Babyland." I think there were only 40 students going out of 60 total 1st and 2nd graders. I felt bad for them and devoted myself to draw all the cute babies I would be seeing and showing to all the unfortunate students who would be missing out. I had a goal now, and nothing was going to stop me.
When we finally got to "Babyland," it was not what I had imagined at all. All I saw were green grass everywhere. Some of the sprinklers were on, and there were all kinds of stone blocks that populated much of the area- they were all organized neatly and formed perfect rolls and columns, how strange I thought to myself. I started to look around for the balloons and crying babies, but none were seen. Where were the mommies and daddies? Where were the cute babies that inhabited "Babyland?"
The bus stopped and we got out. I expected a clown or "funny person" to come and greet us, but instead we got 2 adults who wore dark suits. They spoke in a foreign language to us, although I'm pretty sure it was in English and I was just not giving them any attention. I kept on looking around for the babies that inhabited this fun place, but still no sight. It was all grass, stone art, and statues everywhere I looked- how boring.
Our first assignment was to start tracing our art paper against a rectangular stone piece. The instructors demonstrated, then we followed. I became bored really fast and started to wonder off away from the crowd. Heck, students were everywhere running around, chasing each other, and most of all it seemed no one was really interested in sketching stone art. I really wanted to draw the cute babies and show it to the students who did not make the trip, I was disappointed.
I lay out my picnic sheet and sat on it, looking around for a good stone to sketch; they were all so old and ugly, I didn't want to sketch any of them. As I started to doze off into sleep, I saw a little boy sketching away. He seemed really interested and ran from stone to stone, sketching everything in sight. Wow, he made it looked really fun.
I ran to him and asked what he was doing, he ignored me. I started to sketch the stones he sketched, but he kept on running to the next one; I told him to slow down and wait for me, but he kept on running further away. Ultimately, I had to stop sketching just to catch up to him. He disappeared behind a tall statue, and I kept on looking for him. After 10 minutes or so, I gave up trying to find him and decided to sketch the writing on the statue.
After I finished, I noticed someone looking at me. I looked around, but no one was around. I can still see some of the students and teachers, but they were really far from where I was. "Hey, up here," someone called. I looked up and saw that little boy. He was sitting on top of the statue. "Wow, how did you get up there?" I started to look around to see how I can climb up and join him, but there was no way up. "Over here, behind you," he called out. I looked, and he was standing right behind me. It scared me, and I jumped back. "How did you do that?" I questioned him. He only giggled and ran away. "What's your name?" I called to him. "Robert, but you can call me Robby!" he called back while disappearing behind a stone head. I suddenly felt strange and dumbfounded, something about Robert was off. I couldn't pin-point as to what exactly it was off, but I knew it was off.
Just then, one of the teacher spotted me and ordered I go back and join the group. As I made my way back, I suddenly realized what was off about Robert, he spoke to me alright, but never once did he open his mouth, and his skin was extremely pale compared to anyone I've ever known. Not only that, his clothes seemed out of place, like he was wearing a one piece dress or something. Why would he wear that when it's so cold out here? I started to get freaked out and ran towards the teacher.
The teacher asked why I ran so far from the group, and I told her I was looking for all the fun places and babies. She realized I was confused about the name "Babyland," and questioned me if my parents had told me anything prior to coming on this trip. I told them I was the one who translated "Babyland" to them; she looked pale. She told me exactly what "Babyland" was, and I was very disappointed and scared at the same time.
It turns out, "Babyland" is a cemetery for infants and children. The full name read, "Babyland at Pinelawn Memorial Park." My translation to my parents were, "Babyland at a park, a big lawn full of memories." Our assignment was stone rubbing, basically sketching stone heads of the deceased. I freaked out realizing I had been running on top of dead people's graves, and that I had actually sketched a grave stone. I looked at what I had sketched, and it read "Robert E. Smith, our beloved son, you're in God's arms now. 1950-1956."