the lucky ones

It was a Friday night, around nine, and just like a social media addiction, I checked the website again. I checked infofinder no less than three times a day, plugging our address, scrolling to check – stop times same – route number same – assigned bus same – HUB same? You see, sometimes that information changed. There would be no notice, no email, no text, no phone call. Even though I had attempted to sign up via every means possible to receive notifications about our routes, nagged vice principals, signed up for alerts, pestered bus drivers, none of it worked. Not that any alert, email, or notice would be accurate anyway. I had learned that the drivers wouldn’t know, the schools wouldn’t know, the vice principals now responsible for bus coordination wouldn’t know. I learned that the transportation hotline couldn’t answer any question other than what was listed online. I had learned that I, just-a-parent, was actually the best source of information to our drivers, our schools, and other parents.
I cried that Friday night when our daughters stop time changed to 6:31 a.m. Literally cried, sweet tears of joy. When I sit back now and look at that moment it seems a little absurd that that my six-year-old daughter’s bus would be picking her up at 6:31 a.m. and that was a good thing. However, this is where the system has brought our family over the past six weeks. Because, see the thing is, the week before it was 6:05 a.m. – the students were arriving at campus nearly 45 minutes before school even opened. Before that it was 6:47 a.m. – picking up closer to 7:00 – with the students missing breakfast and the first part of the school day. My daughter handled it better than I, especially when the bus didn’t show up at all. And we are the lucky ones.
I have two school-aged children, two different elementary schools. It isn’t uncommon. We accepted our seats knowing that this might be a challenge. I thought I could finagle a double drop off, but with the standard start, increased traffic around one of magnet schools (also a HUB location), plus Houston traffic, it was physically impossible without someone being late, always. At least if they were on a bus, they wouldn’t be counted tardy and penalized – possibly losing their magnet spot, right?
This morning, as I navigated my children around the abandoned shopping cart filled with trash, directed them to dart across the street – while holding hands – between the passing cars, almost like a game of frogger – only in the dark, detered them away from the beer cans and emptied liquor bottles – perhaps from the weekend prior, and down the side walk, avoiding the mud and the downed power lines, I tried to remember that we are the lucky ones. Our busses come most every day. Our route and our busses are not overcrowded. Our HUB is only two plus miles from our house. Our bus drivers care – My daughter’s driver, on early release day, sent me text message updates once she hit certain stops on the way to our HUB, so that I could leave work to make it to the HUB on time. We have not been late to school nearly every day for the past six weeks. We are not failing our classes. We have not had to leave our magnet programs because of lack of transportation. We are not riding on a bus for four hours every day. We have not been taken on an extensive and ridiculous tour of Houston. We have not been assaulted at our HUB stop. We have not been left behind or simply lost somewhere between school and home. We are the lucky ones.
Our daughter still has the 6:31 a.m. stop, and our son’s is 6:43. After she gets on and waives good-bye, we go find our tree, with the root protruding out of the ground. It provides the best protection from the potential rain, and really the only place to sit and wait. He eats part of his breakfast – there never seems be enough time to finish before we need to leave. This morning, he asks me, “Can you NOT cheer today when my bus arrives? I think it makes me feel sad.” I hadn’t realized that I was cheering. I can see how he would feel sad, in his mind, I’m cheering because he’s leaving. But really, I’m cheering because the bus is just simply there. Because we are the lucky ones.

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