The kindergarten kids went on a field trip.
A day in the park. Bag lunches. Sunscreen. Frisbees. A big yellow bus to take them there.
I was a helper. Mom In Charge of Lunches. I waved goodbye to the boy, grabbed the girl, and got into my minivan, started to drive to the park.
But instead of hitting the road, I pulled around the block, and waited, watching the kids stream onto the bus.
“No seat belts?” My daughter has never known a ride in a vehicle without one. Surely I wasn’t letting her brother, her hero, get into a bus with no seat belts?
“No, sweetie, they don’t. I guess they’re…safer, I don’t know, they just don’t have seat belts.”
“He going to die?”
I tailed the bus to the park. Stupidly ignoring everything in my periphery. Focused on the back of that big yellow bus. Convinced that if I looked to the side, into my rear-view mirror, even for a split second, it would happen.
A drunk driver would cross the median. The bus driver would have a heart attack. The bus would fall over an embankment.
It didn’t, of course.
When the kids had played, and eaten 6 watermelons, and maybe burned a little on the tops of their ears, and were deliciously, deliriously tired, it was time to leave.
I was full of sun and happy and relaxed. I asked my son if he wanted to come with me, in my car. But of course he didn’t. The bus ride is half the point of the field trip.
So I went on ahead.
We got out, went to the school’s playground, the girl and I, to wait.
It was 20 minutes before I realized they weren’t there.
They’d been loading the bus as I was leaving. It was a 5 minute drive, ten minutes, tops.
I read this post the other day. The Pied Piper of Hamelin seems like a fairy tale. But there is a historical basis for it. A town lost it’s children. And the fact that my kid was on a bus just made me think of the movie “The Sweet Hereafter”,
which is, in turn, inspired by that same Pied Piper.
My gut churned, and my sweat got cold, and I found it harder and harder to hold my face in a way that wouldn’t freak my daughter right the hell out.
Irrational, irrational, irrational! I kept chanting in my head.
But I still stared down the street the bus should be on, willing it to come into view.
And then it did.
My head swam with thanks, I rolled my eyes at myself, and I gathered up my boy and his belongings and headed home.
Reality cut into my relief, in the form of a couple of whining, tired kids, and the unexpected addition of a playmate, and backpacks, and hats that I didn’t have enough hands for. And I looked up and down the one way street we had to cross. Looked at the half a block we had left to get to a cross walk. Looked at my car, mere feet in front of us.
I made the decision to jaywalk.
I had just stepped off the curb, when a flaming red car came into view, at the very crosswalk I didn’t think I possessed the energy to reach. I held the kids back, told them we’d wait for this car. But the car slowed down. Pulled up to the curb.
A man rolled his window down. A very official looking man in a uniform.
“Hello there. Thought the kids might like some stickers.”
The kids took their stickers, said thanks.
“You kids have a safe summer.”
But he’s not looking at them. He’s looking at me. My face feels like it’s the same shade as his car.
As we’re walking to the cross walk, I mentally slap myself.
“You were so worried, so god-damned grateful that your kid was returned to you, that you decided to celebrate by potentially putting him in danger? Does that make any kind of sense?”
I’m grateful for the drunk driver who didn’t get on the road at the same time as the bus. I’m grateful for the well trained bus driver. I’m grateful the roads weren’t slippery. I’m grateful the brakes worked.
And I’m grateful that I was both served & protected.