Today’s was Madeline’s first day of grade one. After talking to her bus driver yesterday, we decided to just have Madeline take the bus home after school. Her pick up time in the morning was 50 minutes before the first bell, and the school is less than a 5 minute drive from our house. Since Marc’ll be in that area at that time twice a week taking Luke to preschool, we figured it’d be best to keep Madeline to ourselves for another 45 minutes in the day. (Let alone the fact that Marc and Madeline could barely make it on time for the 9:00am start last year — so ready and waiting for the bus at 8:02am seems neither fun nor feasible…)
I wasn’t too emotional today. Just thinking about her throughout the day and wondering how her day was going, which of her friends were in her class, if she was freezing cold at recess because I sent her in a skirt, long-sleeved shirt, and zip-up hoody. It helped that Marc was there this morning and took her to her classroom, so we knew she got there and was in the right place.
Which takes me to after school, and her school bus drop-off time. Luke and I were icing celebratory cupcakes in the kitchen and at about 5 minutes before we expected Madeline, we put on our jackets and shoes and went outside. I had the video camera on to capture this memory moment. Eventually the bus came, stopping at the opposite side of the cul de sac, so there were some trees blocking my view. The bus stopped, and stopped, and stopped. So I turned off the camera and walked off the driveway towards the bus (which was across the heavily-treed meridian).
Then the bus started moving. And I looked. No one had gotten off the bus. I look up at the bus, which is now passing by our side of the cul de sac on the main road, and Madeline is waving at me from her window in the bus. I go running after the bus, waving my arms and yelling, but obviously the bus driver is looking ahead and not continuously in the rearview mirror, so I am unnoticed. I see the bus turn left. And I panic.
I didn’t know how long the bus route was. And besides, don’t all bus routes end like they do in the movies: in a dark, abandoned garage at the edge of town at about midnight? I told Luke to “Come inside!” and I called the school. Line’s busy. I frantically look for the paper I had yesterday with the bus driver’s phone numbers. Can’t find it. Then I think, “Maybe I can catch the bus coming off of one of the streets around here!”
I grab Olivia who woke up from her nap when we were outside. Did I mention it’s pouring rain? Her rain jacket is, luckily, on the floor by her crib. Grab that. And a pair of socks — she never walks when we’re out, anyway. I yell for Luke to go to the van. He says he needs his shoes. I say, “You can put them on later.” I put on Marc’s fleece because I can’t find my jacket. Grab my purse and Luke’s sandals, with Olivia still on my hip and her coat and socks in that hand. I get the kids buckled in the car and head out in search of any school bus, preferably the one with the little lost 5 year old on it.
I look down all the side streets as I go. No bus. I cross the main road and drive the 2 blocks to my sister-in-law’s house. They have a cell phone. (I think Marc and I are possibly the only people of our generation without a cell phone.) Luckily, I learned how to use a cell phone last Thursday when I went to Saskatoon with my sister-in-law’s cell phone. (I think I am the only person of my generation who did not know how to use a cell phone before last Thursday.)
I try the school again. Still busy. I drive back towards home, because what if the bus driver figures it out and I’m not even home when she drops Madeline off?! And I call Marc at work to get him to look up the number for the school bus service. And, yes, I’m crying on the phone. I started crying when I asked Maureen for the cell phone. But when I talk to Marc I start laughing — just the image of Madeline waving to me as she passed the street. I mean, that is funny!
I get off the phone with Marc, who is going to try the school and the buses, and possibly the President of the United States. I try the school and finally get through. They give me the bus line number. I tell them the driver’s name and my daughter’s name and try to explain the situation without crying too much. They put me on hold as they radio the driver. I start driving away from my house (which I had previously driven up to) preparing to meet the bus at God-knows-where. As I’m on hold, I get to an intersection and see a bus.
As it turns, I see one lone blonde girl. I roll down my window, in the still-pouring rain, and flag down the driver. I pull the van over, get out of the van, and walk across the street. The driver had called Madeline’s name several times when the bus had stopped near our street. Madeline didn’t come, so she assumed she wasn’t on the bus. Then she got to the end of the route and noticed one more person.
Madeline, at first, said that she didn’t know what to do when the bus stopped. And then later she said she didn’t hear the driver calling her name. Either way, she stayed on that bus, and she got her government-funded-money’s worth out of that bus today.
In retrospect, I didn’t need to panic. But with your first kid, it’s hard enough having them out of your care for the school day, in the safe (and, these days, locked) confines of the school building. But to watch her little arm wave to me as she stayed on the bus and me not knowing where it was going and how I’d track her down… well that was just too much for this newbie-of-a-mom.
So, I took a deep breath. Madeline and I trudged back across the street in the pouring rain. I took her picture with her wrecked-as-of-today umbrella and the bus driving away in the background. I pulled the kids out in the rain to the paint store (finally getting Olivia’s coat and socks on, and Luke’s sandals, too). Then they picked out a pop and Madeline got to rent a Hannah Montana dvd at Shopper’s. The kids got home, we had Madeline’s pick of mushroom soup for supper, the celebratory cupcakes, and we listened to the tales of her first day of grade one — which she said was “so much fun”.
And now the kids are in bed, and I’m going to go have a nice bath and hook up the portable dvd player and watch “Pride and Prejudice” (the Keira Knightley version, if you must know). Hopefully that will take the tension out of my neck and shoulders. And, most importantly, I think the rain water has finally dried at the bottom of my jeans.
Happy first day of grade one, Miss Madeline.