When I was around 8, we lived on a farm in southern Minnesota. We had to travel to school by bus. I was the oldest, at the time, of five. My mother stayed home with us and Dad was the breadwinner. We had a small farmhouse but a large plot to run around on – barns, groves, sandpits, pastures and that half-mile-long driveway.
We also rode the bus to town every day during the school year. My sister and I made the trip to and from. Back in those days, those buses were packed full. Older kids didn’t have the luxury of driving to school. Sometimes we had assigned seats, most times we didn’t. It was a crazy few minutes on the ride home depending on the schedule of your drop off or pick up time.
I am so glad that we didn’t have to ride that bus for very long. I do, however, have some crazy stories. Pulled hair, getting punched, squirt guns, fights in the backseat, name-calling – all the things that happened in the 70s.
There were several families on our route. In those days, families were large! Ages of the kids that rode that bus ranged from high school seniors to kindergarten. There were hard lessons to learn when you had never ridden on a bus.
I liked to keep to myself most of the time and was always scared when those boys got on the bus. You know the kind – rough on the outside, picked on little kids, didn’t like girls and thought they were tough.
Our route would start one way and then partway through the year, it would reverse. I hated being almost the last to get off the bus – sitting through the verbal entourage of words and the cruelties of those boys. I couldn’t wait to get to school or get home and get off that bus.
One family had three girls. The oldest was just a bit older than I was and the other two were younger than me. I didn’t get the chance to really know the oldest girl. She ended up going to a school that was for different people like her.
I do remember the mornings when they were the last on the bus. We were picked up about two miles from where they grew up. As the bus rounded the corner it had one more stop and then off to pick them up. Their house was close to the road and they would be waiting for it outside. You always knew who was going to be on the bus before it stopped.
When the girls got on the bus, it was usually packed. I was never afraid of sharing my seat. We shared three and four people in one seat – sometimes on laps of the older kids. They would get on and off we would go.
Wondering why I bring up that specific family? I keep in touch with the middle girl. The youngest is somewhere in the central United States. The oldest passed away not too long ago. The picture at the top of this post is where they grew up. I remember those girls on that swing set over 45 years ago.
I cannot drive passed that home without seeing one of the girls on that swing so long ago. Memories have a neat way of bringing back childhood. Sometimes we start with one and then travel back or forward and remember all those times – good and bad.
I will never forget the oldest girl. When I did see her, not having seen her in over 35 years, she asked for the first letter of my name and BOOM – she knew exactly who I was. I can remember a face before I can remember a name. We have that instant recall if we are in tune with others and our memories.
Sadly, so many of us forget – for reasons we may or may not wish to share. My mind always takes me back to unforgettable times – good and bad. Lessons learned, people that pass through our lives, situations we got through – changing us and I believe mostly for the good.
Nowadays kids rarely ride the bus. If they do, they can pretty much sit by themselves and not worry about who gets on and off. The terrors of those long days still exist but not in a packed bus driving down the dusty roads of years gone by.
Those drives back home always bring me back to my childhood. To those that still live “back home”, thank you for being there to share those good memories with your families.