As my daughter begins seventh grade and my son begins tenth, they are well beyond being the excited children they once were.
But I, just like my mom, still insist on taking obligatory pictures. Maybe that’s because it’s one of the few times I get a picture of my two children together.
Or maybe it’s because I’m watching them grow up too quickly.
For whatever reason, the taking first day of school photos is a family tradition that I’ve held onto.
And it always makes me smile.
Day 44: First Day of School Pictures
Day 18: Bartholomew Cubbin’s Victory Day 17: A Royal Birth Day 16: Creative Kids Day 15: The Scent of Honeysuckle Day 14: Clip of Kevin Kline Exploring His Masculinity Day 13: Random Text Messages from My Daughter Day 12: Round Bales of Hay Day 11: Water Fountains for Dogs Day 10: The Rainier Beer Motorcycle Commercial Day 9: Four-Leaf Clovers Day 8: Great Teachers We Still Remember Day 7: Finding the missing sock Day 6: Children’s books that teach life-long lessons Day 5: The Perfect Photo at the Perfect Moment Day 4: Jumping in Puddles Day 3: The Ride Downhill after the Struggle Uphill Day 2: Old Photographs Day 1: The Martians on Sesame Street
I could grieve how quickly the years have flown. I could pull out baby pictures and wallow in nostalgia. I could reminisce about how, just yesterday, my son was starting kindergarten.
Or I could celebrate that, because both of my children are attending school out of district, my epic battle with the big, yellow school bus may just finally be over — permanently.
The battle began when I was in first grade. Having spent kindergarten walking to school, I was ecstatic that we had moved to a house that required riding a school bus.
My enthusiasm didn’t last long.
The problems started on the first day of school when I thought I could handle the bus ride all by myself. And I did. Going to school was simple. The bus picked me up in front of my house and dropped me off at school. My biggest challenge was getting to my classroom.
Going home proved a bit more difficult. I got on bus number 25, rode it to my street and rode it to my house. I then rode it past my house because my timid calls to stop weren’t heard over the din of bus chatter. Even though the bus failed to stop at my house, it did seem to stop at almost every other house in the county. When her route finally ended, the bus driver turned around, gave me a pointed look and asked me where I lived.
I proudly declared my well-memorized address “1910 Bean Drive.”
The bus driver did not look happy. “We went right past there. Why didn’t you get off?”
“Because you didn’t stop,” I replied.
Without a legitimate comeback, the bus driver had to make a decision. She’d take me home on her next run. Surrounded by kids two or three times my age and size, I finally made it home to an almost hysterical mother.
I wasn’t used to my mother being so worried. I was used to my mother being in control of every aspect of my life… including what I ate. And while I pined to have a lunch box with a bologna sandwich on white bread and ding dongs like all the other kids, my mom packed a very different lunch. Ever day I carried a brown bag (that she ask I bring home to be recycled) with a peanut butter (no added sugar) and honey sandwich on home-made wheat bread, carrot sticks, an apple and powdered milk in a square container with a lid (no thermos for me).
I hated that milk. I never drank that milk. But day after day, my mom packed it in a brown paper bag and day after day I carried the brown bag and the container still full of milk home from school.
Then, the inevitable happened, and I dropped the bag onto the floor of the school bus. The milk, which was already at room temperature, spilled everywhere. The bus driver was not at all pleased with me, so I should have known the situation would get even worse. And it did.
Only weeks later, my mother put her car in the shop near my school and needed a ride home. Being practical, she arrived at my school just as classes were ending and climbed onto bus number 25 with the first and second graders. At least she tried to climb on the bus, but the driver wouldn’t let her.
My mother insisted that there was plenty of room and the bus was going right to our house anyway. The driver told her no. After what seemed like the longest argument (and one of the most embarrassing moments of my life), the principal finally came over to settle the matter.
My mother had to find her own way home.
I’m pretty sure that was the day my name was officially added the national school bus “beware of this student” watch list. (That’s the list distributed nationwide to every single school bus driver.)
The list is the only explanation as to why, even after I moved across the country, the new school bus driver didn’t like me either.
In that case, the feeling was mutual. I had no respect for a woman who, instead of looking at the road, was constantly looking in the mirror to see what the kids were doing. After a few very close and dangerous calls on winding, West Virginia roads, my friend and I decided we’d had enough and organized a protest. We told everyone on the bus to duck down below the backs of the seats. The next time the driver looked in the mirror, her bus appeared empty.
We though this was hilarious. Our bus driver didn’t. In fact, she was so angry, she stopped the bus and marched up and down the aisle taking names and phone numbers Once she got mine, she seemed satisfied in learning that the girl on the national watch list was the culprit. What she didn’t expect was that my parents sided with me. They didn’t, however, think the incident warranted a life-time pass from riding the school bus, and I was still forced to ride for a couple more years.
But now, my days on the bus have come to an end, and, except for a few field trips, they have ended for my children as well.
Like so many other parts of childhood, all that is left are the memories and the lessons learned. Now it’s time to make more memories and learn something new. I’m just glad that neither is likely to involve a big, yellow school bus.