This is Amy’s second year riding the bus to school, but her first year riding it home in the afternoon. Wednesday, she forgot to get on the bus and the office called us to pick her up. Thursday, I was sure there would be no problems and walked to the bus stop to meet her. The road from our house to the bus stop is about 80 degrees uphill the entire way. I stopped twice to shake an imaginary rock out of my shoe and I still thought my heart was going into v-fib. I would have stopped more, but I couldn’t think of any reason for stopping other than gasping and sitting on the road. The bus stops on Northshore, but I stood back far enough to avoid being flattened by someone turning onto the mountain street without looking. A few minutes after I wheezed to the top of the mountain, Doug and Dharma arrived. We stood there talking as the bus arrived, deposited half a dozen children and pulled away. No Amy. Doug quizzed the neighborhood children while I called the school, expecting them to say Amy forgot to get on the bus again. The office didn’t have her and the teacher got on the phone to tell me she had made certain Amy got on her bus at the same time that the neighborhood children insisted that Amy was still sitting on the bus.
We calmly made the easy, downhill trip back to the house. Doug went inside to work in his dungeon while I hopped in the van to drive to the school. I thought the bus would run its’ route and then return Amy to school. As I pulled out of the neighborhood, the school called me. Amy had gotten off the bus at a stop in another neighborhood, on the other side of Northshore. In case you are unfamiliar with Knoxville, Northshore is a two lane, high speed race track littered with the carcases of unfortunate raccoons, squirrels and other animals. The idea of Amy wandering down Northshore was frightening. Street names and directions make as much sense as Martian to me and I thought I was looking for a street name instead of a subdivision name. Doug realized I was lost and decided he could run to Amy faster than I could drive to her. There was hysterical screaming, blaming and Twittering from many directions. I got to Doug before I found Amy and he commandeered the vehicle since I was clearly inept.
As we raced down Northshore for the umpteenth time, another parent called to tell me she was watching Amy until I arrived. She talked us there and we both hopped out of the van like crazy people. Amy was happily playing on a swingset under the watchful eye of several mothers until she saw us. She ran over and yelled at me. “Why didn’t YOU tell me which bus stop was mine?” Angry Amy got in the car and we asked her why she didn’t get off the bus when all of her neighborhood friends got off the bus. She responded by bursting into giant sobs. Why couldn’t she have cried in front of the pack of good mothers who hadn’t lost their children and yelled at me after we got in the van? Yes, I know mothers aren’t supposed to have thoughts like that, but since good mothers don’t misplace their 6-year-olds on school buses, my horrible thought is the least of my problems.
Friday, we drove the van to the bus stop. Doug stood at the car door, his hands on the key like he was about to duel in the deserted street, ready to chase the bus. I stood so far out on Northshore that the other cars could have run over my toes. My plan was to hop on the bus like the man who stands on the back bumper of the trash truck. Amy was the first child to hop off the bus. She rolled her eyes and in her very best imitation of our 15-year-old, asked us why we were there when nobody else had parents at the bus stop. We were embarrassing and she wanted to walk home with her friends. We slinked into the car and drove home in silence. I hope she enjoys that walk home in the rain and cold this winter, because I certainly wouldn’t want to do anything embarrassing like offer all the children a ride home.