When I was a kid in school, elementary through sophomore year in high school, we didn’t take a bus. My parents had strategically bought a home within walking distance of all 3 schools– much to our dismay. My brother, sister and I wanted to ride the bus because that meant that we got to have lunch at school, which reaped other rewards such as having a lunch box. When your a ‘walker’ you don’t need a lunch box because you go home for lunch. It was an accoutrement that I didn’t have the pleasure of having …at least not that I remember anyway.
As an adult without children, I would drive to work and see all the children boarding the the buses each morning and dream of the day that I would have a child to send off to school. Seeing the backpacks filled with folders, books and, of course the coveted lunch box, made me long for the opportunity to go shopping for school supplies.
I remember the flood of worry that came over me last year as I watched the school bus pull away with Mary on board for the first time. I was letting this child out of my sight. My job, as her foster mom, is to keep her safe. How can I do that when she’s on the bus? What if something happened on the bus? What if there was an accident? What if a deranged person boarded the bus and hurt her? In that moment, I wished with all my heart that she could walk to school; that I could just take her by the hand and walk a few blocks to school and see her delivered safe and sound to her new first grade.
Today is the second day of second grade. I stood at the front door and watched her trot down the driveway and join up with the other children, parents and dogs as they awaited the bus. We are fortunate to live on the corner where the bus picks up, allowing me to give Mary the sense of independence she needs but still keep a close eye on her. I watched as my girl talked politely with the other parents, and acted appropriately as a girl should who is wearing a new dress to school! She looked smart in her dress, school shoes and lacy socks carefully folded over. She kept her hands to herself while engaging in conversations with other kids. And then the bus came. It stopped. The doors opened. Mary, seeing that no one was taking the initiative, moved herself into position at the head of the line, and then patiently waited as the bus monitor stepped off the bus and waved the children on board. She walked, carefully, the one or two steps to board, and then I watched as she made her way down the aisle looking on either side for an empty seat. She sat down. Once all the children were seated the bus departed up the street to the next stop. I waited at the door for the return pass out of the neighborhood. I didn’t know if she would see me or not, but I stood at the door waving. Then I saw her little hands pop through the window, waving and waving. I caught a glimpse of her bright smile as the bus whisked by.
Good, I thought. She is exactly where she needs to be.