Sun tan accentuated by pastel dress, white socks, charm bracelet and mullet?
Polo shirt, navy corduroys and R2D3/C3PO backpack?
Two nervous moms seeing their whirling dervishes off to the bus stop for the first day of kindergarten, secretly glad to have them out of their hair after a summer of knock-down drag-out kickball games, Barbie mutilations and Double Dare in the front yard?
My best friend and I were off, but school wasn’t the first thing on our minds as we made our way down the sidewalk. What we were really looking forward to, what we had heard so much about from the older kids, was the bus stop and the ride to school.
All the fun happened at the bus stop down the road, which was actually the driveway of two neighborhood kids who assigned themselves entirely too much importance based on that fact.
At the bus stop, backpacks full of Trapper Keepers, sack lunches and permission slips were thrown to the side so the fun could begin. A dozen of us would play Mother May I?, Red Light, Green Light or dodge ball, often getting our clothes dirty before we even set foot on the bus.
When the bus did finally show up—bus 315—Mrs. Hooper would greet us with a smile, something she did every morning of my elementary school career. She was intimidating that first day—a large older woman with crazy gray hair and sunglasses the size of her head—but she gave us candy.
It wasn’t a tough sell.
That first day we learned that the bus was more than just a way to get us to school, but rather a way to build character. There were really no rules on the bus, at least any they could really enforce. Since Mrs. Hooper had to watch the road, she could yell all she wanted, but short of stopping that bus and turning it around, couldn’t actually stop anything that went on in the back.
And all the good stuff went on in the back.
Oh yes, the back seating arrangement was a symbol of status where seats were saved and secrets, snacks and homework answers were shared. You learned about drinking or smoking as heard from someone’s older brother’s friend, gross inside jokes were created and seats were vandalized with markers and colored gel pens.
Stuck up front in those green vinyl seats, we longed to inch our way to the back.
But for those first couple of years, we just went along for the seatbelt-less ride. Even on that first day, it was evident that riding the bus made you tough. You had to get up earlier, stand out in the cold and deal with bus stop bullies. The bus is where the best flavored Lip Smackers were traded and playground strategies were discussed.
If weather or a dentist appointment caused you to be picked up and dropped off one day by your parents, you couldn’t help but wonder what you missed that day on the bus, who sat in your seat or racked up the Red Rover points.
But on that first day of school we knew none of those things, we only knew school had begun.
Well, and that we looked like total bad-asses.
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I was a bus rider til 9th grade when older friends let me ride along in their IROC camaros or el caminos.
Very cute picture.
My bus driver at that age looked like the dude Lynyrd Skynryd took their name after. Tall lanky, buzz cut, chew in cheek, redneck mean man who caleld us “rug rats”.
A darling picture of you and Dan! I remember those days!
For those reading this comment, this is my kindergarten teacher and I’m so, so honored she read this post! She also sent me an email in which she stated “I remember well your writing and art work in kindergarten and how gifted you were in these areas. I especially remember the blog on eating your friends goldfish crackers! You, Mike and Dan were the mighty three some. It comes as no surprise that you are now a successful writer. I am proud to say I had you in kindergarten! By the way, when I retired, bus 315 was still doing your route!”
Seriously, this made my day.
I was a walker K-5 back in the days when parents actually thought it was normal to walk out of their line of vision. I had to walk .25 miles in all types of weather.
With Wonder Bread baggies on my feet inside my crappy boots, I trudged through snow banks. And it was uphill both ways. Seriously.
When I was in pre-school in Korea, I would walk to nursery with my neighbor. He was like 2 years older and he would hold my hand and we would walk to pre-school together. Now I wish my parents took a picture of that.
Love your pic though! Darling!
Oh this is EPIC. Bus rider all the way babaaayyy! We had an hour, if not more, ride in the mornings and afternoons. First picked up, last dropped of, living 8000 miles from town. Lots of bus time.
I remember in like 2nd grade, the back seat riders were bringing their boom box on the bus and listening to Janet Jackson. I wondered with awe and amazement how they managed to get their bangs to curl straight up and over 6 inches, and how the heck did they roll their pant bottoms that way? I never figured that one out. Couldn’t do the pin either. Sigh. I was a front rider for a long time, quietly learning my hymn memorizations for morning Catechism…
Wow! That’s quite a commute!
I was never the “cool” kid by definition either, but I did manage to weasel my way to the back eventually (no doubt with sad attempts at crimped hair and day-glow plastic bracelets.)
I’m pretty sure that in the 70s & 80s, school bus drivers were just random crazy people found hanging out on park benches as a means by the town to clean up their park benches. I never had a normal/stable/clean one.
Mine was bus #3, and there was a period in Middle School where we had The Bad Bus, and our (insane) bus driver (with anger issues) would actually pull over on the side of the road and sit there until we “All settled down, Godammit!”.
But bus rides were both terrifying and AWESOME. Social hierarchies on the bus were one thing, in the school were another, and out of school were a 3rd. So you always had a chance to sit in the proverbial Back of the Bus at some point.
Agreed. And playgrounds are a subject for another post entirely.
I can’t wait to read it. (hint hint)
Timely post! Miss D. starts school today. She is FREAKED because her teacher is a male. I’m nervous for her today.
ps: I *need* that C3po backpack.
I had the distinguished honor of being a bus leader and getting to walk down the hallways and should “SIIIIIXTY-SEEEVENNN!” and all the little children would line up behind me and I would march them proudly down the hallway. My little minions. muahaha..
I was a walker. We (me, Angela and Dawn) walked to elementary school for 6 years and then to middle school for 2 because we lived in between the two schools. In the winter I would dream of a magical go-kart type of vehicle that I could drive to school and sip hot chocolate.
When we started 9th grade, we were relagated to the bus which we rode a grand total of once. It was that traumatic.
And that picture is so reminiscent of my first day of school it’s uncanny.
Great post 🙂
I lived just a couple of streets over from my elementary school so I walked as most kids in our ‘hood did. Walking home from school was a social thing. I was always hoping someone “cool’ would want to walk with me. Walking home from school was when I I often heard the latest gossip or piece of pop culture.
What a great post! I rode the bus to school as a kid, but it stopped at my house, not a bus stop, so I missed that part of the experience. I do remember sitting up back one day with a girl who was a senior in high school when I was in 8th grade, and she told me what that F word meant that was carved into the seat back in front of us! I became worldly overnight! lol
Just visiting from BPOW.
One of my absolut favorites of yours. My mind kep wandering to the Sixteen Candles bus rides and how they were done so well…I never rode the bus, I walked to school for 12 long years, but even there it was the way u walked home, the people on your route, the same decisions and relationships forged on that 15 walk. You were and ARe a total bad ass!!!!
Bus rider too, oh my gawd, I mean, did we live on the same street? I was always getting kicked off the bus for standing up to this BIG-BAD-Bully, but I will never forget, all of is girls in the back of the bus, chilling and listening to “Alive and Kicking” by Simple Minds.