When my older son was in high school, he had one pronounced allergy: He practically broke out in hives whenever the words “extra credit” were tossed out to the class by a teacher. He never wanted to go that additional mile to help his grade. Even when I told him that “optional” was not a word in our family dictionary.
But now he’s in college, and things have changed. Could the cool facial hair have anything to do with it?
Whatever the reason, my #1 son told us that if he brought in photos of himself in front of two of San Antonio’s five missions (although the Alamo didn’t count), he would get bonus points in his Texas History class. And . . . cue the gasp! . . . he wanted that extra credit.
Who are you and what have you done with my lazy, unmotivated son?!?
Always up for a mini-adventure, we figured spring break was the perfect time to do a little San Antonio sightseeing and score those bonus points. So two Saturdays ago we picked up my older son from UTSA and checked out Mission Concepción and Mission San José on our way home to Houston.
But did you really think that someone like me would settle for one measly photo of my boy standing in front of a building? Really?
Even my #2 son joined in on the fun. He grabbed my Canon point and shoot camera, probably figuring that my, oh, 300 photos just wouldn’t be enough evidence that his big bubba had actually visited these old compounds.
Of course, just because my boy wanted that extra credit didn’t mean that he really was up for seeing everything the missions had to offer. Unfortunately for him, he has geeky parents who love checking out historical places. Much to his displeasure, this was no five-minute photo op. The missions really were fascinating!
In the 1700s, Franciscan missionaries established six missions along the San Antonio River. Five of them survive (Espada and San Juan are the other two), and four are active parishes in San Antonio’s Archdiocese. Concepción, built in 1755, is the best-preserved and least-altered of the missions. Of course, the Alamo is the best-known (remember?).
These missions were more than just religious buildings. Each one was a fortified village with its own church, farm, and ranch. The Franciscan friars converted the native people to Catholicism, taught them to live as Spaniards, and helped maintain Spanish control over the Texas frontier. San José had 300 residents!
As I stood on the Mission San José grounds and tried to imagine it as a vibrant, self-sustaining community, my younger son made a discovery and came running over to drag me to it. Did he dig up bones from some 18th-century farm animal? Did he spy cryptic wall writings?
Nope! What he found was a possibly ancient Coke machine inside what was once quarters for Indians who worked at the mission in the 1700s. And it used quarters! How ironic! He reported that his Dr Pepper didn’t taste as stale as one might suspect. That made the trip worthwhile for him.
And his older brother scoring extra credit made the visit worth the length (barely).