We are standing at the gate for our evening flight to Phoenix when my husband stays, “I think we’re on a spring break flight.” Indeed, most of the people around us seem to be high schoolers. But then our own high schooler says, “Those kids aren’t New Yorkers. Look at them. A lot of them are wearing New York shirts.” He’s right, the adults among them even wearing denim rhinestone encrusted NY hats. And then we start to chat.
As it turns out, the students are from the drama, dance and orchestra clubs of a high school in Tempe, Arizona, and have come to New York to take dance classes, see “The Play that Went Wrong,” and Bernadette Peters in “Hello Dolly.” A parent chaperone tells me she has ten kids, four who are biologically her own, plus six she has taken in from her niece who is a meth addict and currently in jail. “Wow, you’re a hero,” I tell her. She tells me that her niece now hates her, and when I ask how she pays for all these kids, she tells me that she and her husband got licensed as foster parents and so the state now pays them a monthly stipend per head. She had to rent a bigger house, she had to buy a 14-seat van. “Sometimes I literally go crazy,” she says. “This trip was a break for me. I got to get away.”