The View From The School Bus

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It was Jackson’s last day of first grade. He has already imagined crying after the last school bell rings. He was all too aware of another big milestone.

My mother was telling Jackson yesterday how proud she was of him graduating and he said, “I reached all my goals. My main goal was being able to tell time on a digital clock, and on the other kind of clock.”

Towards the end of the school year I start to get panicked that I cannot possibly remember everything. The feel of my son’s hand in mine walking to the bus. Our long shadows on the sidewalk. Rushing to his friends gathering at the bus, talking about the sports scores from the night before. That hug and kiss everyday before he boards the bus. That feeling of letting go and each of us beginning a whole other part of our days apart.

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We have taken Jackson to the bus almost everyday for school this past year (except when we bike). When the bus pulls in and lets out its long brake hiss, the parents gather for last hugs (if they’re lucky, a kiss) and to say goodbye. The kids, each one with a full backpack all line up and disappear up the steps into the bus as the bus driver with the big gray mustache leans on the wheel saying hello. The bus windows are tinted so unless your child is right up against the window on a sunny day, the parents all wave wildly blowing kisses up at the bus windows hoping their kids can see them. I always wondered what it is like on the bus. What do the parents all look like from the inside out? What is it like sitting in the tall erect seats? What happens after the bus pulls away? Last week, I brought my camera to the bus and asked the driver if I could ride along to school with the kids. His big concern was how I would get home. I told him I could walk, and he waved me in.

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I watched how the kids all went to the seats they had figured out from the daily ritual. How they squeezed in next to their friends. I saw the parents all trying to figure out exactly where their kids were — some successfully — then drawing on the windows with their fingers, touching their children’s hands through the glass, then pulling away and blowing kisses. There was a sea of love on both sides of the windows. All about to let go and begin separate daily adventures.

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It is really hard taking pictures on a school bus. In our case the ride is under ten minutes so there is not much time. The bus bounces around and turns corners too hard. The light changes every second with the sun filtering through the trees. Richard, the bus driver is checking me out the whole time in the big mirror above his head. All the kids are making faces at the Dad with the camera violating their inner sanctum — their moment alone together in-between when they have to listen to adults again.

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Throughout the last week of school, I rode the bus several more times. The parents started asking me what it was like. They started saying, “one day I am going to ride the bus and find out myself.” Then the last day of school came and no other parent came on board. I was the only one who climbed up those steps to see the other side of the view we witnessed everyday. There are so many views with which to see our lives that we never take. Sometimes it is only three steps away and a quick permission.

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