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Every Life is a Story
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Monday, July 21, 2008

Why I Don't Like to Ride the Bus

I know, it's the middle of July, and a beautiful summer. But here in Utah, we have year round schools, and school starts next week. So I'm thinking back to school already.

When I was in first grade, we moved from Corvallis, Oregon to Klamath Falls, Oregon. I was a brand new student in a brand new school in a brand new town. I attended Peterson Elementary, and I met my new teacher Mrs. Dennis. I was very nervous. Most particularly about riding the school bus. I didn't ride the school bus in kindergarten, and this was going to be my first time. I knew that on the first day of school, everyone took care of the first graders and made sure they got on the right bus, and knew when to get off. But this wasn't the first day of school. This was a few weeks into the school year, and no one was looking out for me.

My mother assured me that I would be just fine. She promised that she and my sister would be standing out where the bus was waiting for me so that I would see her and know when to get off. THAT was my biggest fear. I was afraid of missing my bus stop and not getting off in the right place. Because I had no idea where I actually LIVED, and certainly couldn't recognize it on sight yet.

When my first day ended, I boarded the bus with the weight of the world on my shoulders. I approached the big scary bus driver to explain that I didn't know where my stop was and didn't know where I lived. He said something vague that was meant to make me feel better. But I didn't. The bus left, and headed out on it's route. I watched out the window anxiously, watching for my mother. The bus made it's first stop. Some kids got off. No sign of my family. I stayed on the bus. The bus made it's second stop. No sign of my family.

Technically, I should not have gotten off of the bus. My mother had made a promise that she would be waiting for me. I had no idea where I was or where I lived. Call it intuition, or a higher power, or dumb luck, but I couldn't stay on the bus any longer. I was too upset and scared to stay, and I don't think that I cared if it was really my stop or not. I just couldn't stay. I got up, and got off the bus. I stood by the side of the road and watched the bus leave. I was alone at the bus stop, and I had no idea where to go from there. It occurred to me that I had perhaps made a huge mistake.

I waited around for about a minute, then decided to follow the other children that were walking up the street to their houses. Nothing looked familiar at all. I pretended I knew where I was going. Suddenly, I saw my mother walking down a driveway, my little sister in hand. I had gotten off at the right stop! I was so relieved! And so indignant! She was supposed to be right there! She recognized that I was upset, and apologized for being a little late. She didn't think the bus would come so fast. And then I was home, and all was fine.

But the trauma of that little moment has never left. I was never able to ride the bus comfortably on the way home, for fear I would miss my stop. Even after I knew my neighborhood intimately, and could find my way home from just about anywhere, the bus still made me uncomfortable. It wasn't long before I found a shortcut that would let me walk home in a relatively short time. My relief at not having to get on the bus was enough to keep me walking home the rest of my time at that house.

I wasn't always at a school where I could walk home easily. But I walked whenever I could get the chance. A part of me is grateful now to be close enough to the school to walk my children to school, and walk to meet them when they come home. It would stress me out to see them ride the bus.


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