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June 17, 2008

Missing the Bus

Linsey_3Last fall, on a beautiful September day full of lingering summer heat, Bella stepped onto the bus for her first day of kindergarten. She had been a shy and often tentative child for the first five years of her life, but she didn't hesitate as she skipped onto the bus. She had been looking forward to kindergarten all summer and she was thrilled to be riding the bus to school. She was ready.

When Bella returned that first day, she walked off the bus slowly but proudly. I could tell that she wanted to run into my arms, but was self-conscious about acting as cool as all the second and third graders around her. Her beaming grin, however, was not tempered by any inhibitions. She'd had a great day and was thrilled to find me at the agreed upon spot to tell me all about it. She'd stepped out into a new world, confident that the security of home would be awaiting her triumphant return.

Our neighborhood is the only one in our town to enjoy the benefits of busing. Most of my friends rush around town, dropping off their kids at preschool and elementary school, moving slowly through drop-off and pick-up lines while anxiously calculating whether they'll be late for their next pick-up. I have it easy. After picking up Jack from preschool, I bring everybody home for a quick lunch. I walk Bella out to the end of our driveway, the bus picks her up, and I walk back into my house. I then put Juliette down for a long nap, and use the next three and half hours to work out, write, and have some quality one on one time with Jack. Life with the bus couldn't be more convenient.

So I really had no excuse when I forgot to pick up Bella. I had been having a nice afternoon. I had caught the end of Gossip Girl while working out on the elliptical. I had completed the latest mission on Club Penguin with Jack. When Juliette had woken up, smiling and babbling, I had picked her up and walked over to my neighbor's for a playdate. I had even remembered to bring a clean diaper and sippy cups with cold water. Juliette was soon crawling among a new set of baby toys, while Jack was playing trains nicely with his playmate; once I had assured myself that all my children were happy and accounted for, I settled in to catch up with my friend.

My friend interrupted me in the middle of a story to ask, "When does Bella get home on the bus?" My heart literally skipped a beat as I realized I had committed my worst nightmare: I had forgotten one of my children. In my dreams, it had always been the baby in her carseat that I forgot next to the car. Instead, I'd forgotten my eldest, the one who would remember.

I sprinted out of the house, barefoot, and started running after the bus as it went along its route through our neighborhood. If I didn't catch it, the driver would return to school with Bella, a fifteen minute ride, and leave her with the secretary. As I ran faster than I ever had before, I was picturing a large empty yellow school bus echoing with Bella's sobs as the stone faced driver rode on.

I caught up with the bus a few blocks later. Bella came down the steps, tears streaming down her face. I gathered her into my arms and held her tight, apologizing over and over again. She just kept repeating, "You weren't there. You forgot about me. I was so scared." I showed her my bloody feet, but my silliness of running down the street without shoes did not cheer her up. I had broken her trust and it would take a lot more work and time to repair. I hadn't been there when she counted on me.

This original New Jersey Moms Blog post was inspired by an invitation in Lisa Garrigues' book Writing Motherhood: Write about your most outrageous or inexcusable mothering moment. You can read more of Vanessa's mishaps on her blogs: Chefdruck Musings and Chefdruck Writes.

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