Do you know your kids’ bus driver? I don’t know her name. I’ve never introduced myself. Most days I just watch out the dining room window while my garage door stays open, waiting to see my children tumble out of the bus and run down our driveway. I’ve been spoiled the last two years now that we are in public school and utilize the bus system. They used to be in private school and I was the bus. I remember filling out an emergency contact card and maybe once or twice waving from the garage as she drove away. But no, I am embarrassed to say that I do not know the woman who takes my children to and from school, every day.
Last Monday I waited at the bus-stop, childless. The Hare was sick but I wanted to ask the bus driver if she could let The Hare off at a different stop on Mondays starting the next week.
“Not a problem,” she said smiling, “Just fill out the paperwork from the office with all the information.”
“Oh, that’s easy. It’s K’s house.” I said.
“Great.” she confirmed, “You’ll still need that paperwork so I can have it on file. And maybe send a reminder note on the first day.”
Perfect, I thought.
As you might have noticed, last week is a blur. Running season started, our gymnastics home meet programs were due to the printer and The Hare was home sick all week.
K’s mom and I confirmed earlier in the week that The Hare would be getting off at their house starting Monday but I never mentioned it to my little one again.
We got up as normal today. The Tortoise left first. We enjoyed a quiet breakfast together (well, she had breakfast. I contemplated taking coffee through an I.V.) Big kiss, little kiss, big hug, little hug at the door as she headed off to school. Next it was The Hare’s turn. She was in a great mood. Smiling and singing while she got dressed. We chatted about the weather and how the week was scheduled. Then it was time for her to pack up too. Big hug, little hug, big kiss, little kiss and she was headed out the door.
I had a day full of errands and lessons to review. 3:00pm surprised me, and suddenly I was co-coaching 17 freezing little girls, trying to reassure them that they weren’t going to get frost bite in 37 degree weather. It was pretty windy and then it started to sprinkle. Practicing outside lasted about an hour and then we had to pack it up and head inside. It was a warm welcome to find a small space outside a set of lockers. Then in a breath, it was 5:00 pm and The Tortoise and I were heading home.
As soon as I pulled out of the school drive, my heart stopped beating. A flash came to me of The Hare sitting outside our house, in the cold and rain, crying her eyes out for the last 45 minutes. I suddenly remembered that I had never turned in that paperwork. To make matters worse, I had never reminded her that she needed to go to her friend’s house because I had totally forgotten she was going in the first place. I also had never confirmed with the other mom that the schedule would start today and I hadn’t even written a note for the teacher that morning. My hands started to shake. I dialed the mom’s house; no answer. I couldn’t find her cell phone number. I called a neighbor to see if they remembered The Hare getting off the bus or not. They couldn’t remember. We drove straight home – no Hare. Then I remembered that the mom had said they also had tutoring on Mondays so I drove over there – they had already left but the staff said she didn’t come in with any extra children. I called the house again, no answer. By now my hands were white knuckled from gripping the steering wheel so tightly, my whole face covered in hives and The Tortoise was crying.
“I’m going to just drop you off at the house in case she shows up.” I said nervously, “I’m going over to K’s house.”
I couldn’t think straight. Every hair on my body was standing up. The tears were coming now, the lump in my throat was making it hard to breath. Just as I pulled into K’s driveway they finally picked up the phone. They had just gotten home from tutoring – and yes, The Hare was with her.
Here is what unfolded after school today: K and her mom also forgot that The Hare was getting off at their stop, so no one said anything to her on the bus. When they got to our home the bus-driver noticed that my garage door was closed. She let The Hare get off the bus to see if maybe I had just forgotten to open it, but then she waited. The driver watched her go down the driveway, up our front walk and ring the doorbell. She waited to see if anyone answered and when I didn’t, she motioned to her to get back on the bus. Now here is where it gets even more amazing – she remembered our brief conversation the week before and called K’s mom to see if they were expecting The Hare today because she seemed to remember that Mondays The Hare would be coming to their house instead.
This complete stranger that drives several bus loads of kids back and forth to school 5 days a week, all year long – she remembered. She waited to make sure my baby girl was safe and she drove her back to K’s house. I was dumbfounded. What if our driveway wasn’t our bus-stop? What if K’s mom had already left for tutoring? What if she had just dropped everyone off and then had driven away – would my 7-year-old had an inkling of what to do?
But thankfully none of those scenarios mattered. I couldn’t hug The Hare enough when I saw her. She was a little perturbed that her “schedule” was off and that she hadn’t been given a note, but she was at least happy to have spent time with one of her best friends. It took several hours for the overwhelming feeling of panic to subside.
This bus driver is the clearest example of what community is all about – she cares about my family even though I don’t even know her name. There are not enough words to explain to her how grateful I am.