Hollie Grimaldi Flores: Going on a field trip
The Nevada County Fair is in full swing which means next week those big yellow buses will once again be carrying eager (and not so eager) students to schools throughout the district. Each year, as I sit behind a bus while it loads or unloads its human cargo, I find myself travelling back in time to fond memories of bus rides gone by.
As the youngest of seven children, finally being able to ride the bus to school was a long-anticipated right-of-passage. I remember the excitement of going to my elementary school via the bus — struggling to get up the steps and then looking for a friendly face to share a seat. Over the years, the daily ride lost a bit of its shine, but there are still many great memories from those early morning and afternoon rides.
My own children did not feel quite the same way about riding the school bus. The route their bus took meant they were one of the last stops before getting to school. That worked in their favor, but they also had the last stop at the end of the day, which meant close to two hours to make the six-mile ride home.
They begged for alternatives, negotiated rides with neighbors, and counted the days until they could ride with a sibling, or drive themselves. I spent many mornings in the drop off line as the solution to sleeping in a tiny bit longer and sparing my children the inconvenience of taking the bus, but I had a difficult time understanding why they would want to miss the experience.
I think my fondest memories are not so much from the daily ride to and from — fraught with the early morning chaos of getting to the stop on time — but more from the many field trips taken over the course of my time in the education system.
Growing up in New York meant a trip to Cooperstown while in middle school. I am certain there was an educational component attached to this trip. I have a vague recollection of a colonial village and standing in a small wooden building that once served as a school room.
I know there was a great deal of excitement, especially from the middle school boys and our male science and history teachers, as we descended into the Baseball Hall of Fame, but what I remember most is the bus ride and the social maneuvering that went on as my classmates and I found our seats and negotiated placement as far in the back as possible in an attempt to distance ourselves from chaperones and educators.
In that same vein, I have countless memories riding buses to football games and band competitions during middle and high school. Some of the competing schools were some distance away — time filled singing cheers of school spirit like, “Everywhere we go-o, people want to know-o, who we are, so we tell them … ” Or “Na-na-na-na. Na-na-na-na-na, hey, hey, we’re number one.”
It was on those rides that I learned all band members (or at least the horn section) were committed to memorizing iconic lines from Monty Python films. Deep friendships were formed. Countless crises unfolded and many a mini catastrophe was averted. It may have been band, but there was plenty of drama.
One of the longest trips taken on the beloved school bus was to a parade and field competition in Washington, D.C.
At the time, the trip was all about who would sit with whom — a lot of jockeying took place before, during, and after the long trip. We ate, played games, sang songs, and slept our way to Virginia before unloading into a motel that was soon over taken by the antics and misadventures of teens living the dream.
I do not know how we placed in that contest, but I have a lifetime of memories still in tact from the many hours logged on those buses.
As a kindergartner, I was led by my older siblings to the end of our dirt road to wait for the bus that would take us to our places of learning. I would slide around the seats of that big bus as it navigated windy and bumpy roads.
By the time I was in high school, I had convinced my bus driver to stop in front of my house to pick me up, rather than wait as I came flying out of the front door, running down the street to catch up with him.
When I was finally able to drive myself to school, I bid a fond adieu to bus number 35, and took the next step toward freedom. I can’t honestly say I missed riding that old bus, but I can look back and realize it was more than a ride to and from.
The bus ride was part of my education, part of my social growth and the simple joy that comes from the knowing, “Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government.”
With deference to Monty Python, it made for one heck of a ride!
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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