August 1, 2007


The Yellow Bus of Salvation

by Kimberly Valzania

To all the school bus drivers out have NO IDEA how much you mean to me.

I ask you, what woman isn't positively gleeful when her precious cherubs finally don their Sponge Bob or Dora backpacks to dutifully march down the driveway and climb aboard a yellow school bus for their first day of school? I didn't cry, like so many other mothers claim... I did an all out, semi-choreographed, no holds barred happy dance back up the driveway! I was looking forward to a whole cup of coffee and a little newspaper time. Some quiet. A REAL shower - one with special soaps and scrubs and extra time for conditioner - not one of those 2 minute jobbers where you have to scramble out, wet and un-rinsed, when you hear the crashes and screams of your little angels trying to kill one another. In fact, I did the same happy dance, complete with an air guitar riff, every day throughout September until the one fateful, stomach-turning moment when I was caught by the UPS guy. With the yellow bus sputtering away and my son cynically squinting at me through the window (his jaded suspicions about my happiness over his departure apparent), I was just completing a series of back handsprings with a double back-flip landing (sticking it!) when I locked eyes with the man in brown as his truck careened into my driveway. Needless to say I scurried into the house, fully flushed and sweaty, only to have to answer the door moments later to sign for the package. Yes, we'd traded looks - mine one of embarrassment, his one that signaled he'd clearly seen this sort of thing before and was unfazed. He let me know through his knowing nod and a slow blink that my secret was safe with him - apparently what happens in the driveway stays in the driveway. And though I felt I could trust this nice man, the incident promptly ended euphoric revelry. When what I've dubbed The Yellow Bus of Salvation rolls around the corner, I can't help but breathe a sigh of relief. Should I, oh you of many judgments, feel guilty? Let's assess what my life had been like until then, shall we?

Prior to the yellow bus, my life was a constant flow of wiped bums and noses, cleaning up spills and popping pills (Tylenol, for me...for the headaches...) I’ve picked up hundreds (make that millions) of books, blocks, legos, bits and pieces of plastic from God knows where and put them back into respective boxes and bins, on shelves and into closets. I've wiped boogers off walls, tears off cheeks, and crap (yes, crap) off the toilet seats. I've disinfected, bleached and "Lysoled" my way through many a winter. I've had countless sleepless nights worrying about what I said and how I said it, what I did and how I did it. When it comes to your children and conflict, you second-guess and worry your way through every mishap. A mother's life is full of ups and downs. One minute you feel like you should be receiving the Parent-of-the-Year Award for coming up with the BEST possible bedtime routine, and the next you're keeping a box of wine cold in the fridge and making frequent trips to the kitchen.

I've made my own popsicles (a disaster - the green remnants of that little Martha Stewart experiment are still stuck to the inside of my freezer door) and homemade stuffed animals out of felt, goo-goo eyes and yarn. Yup, even churned up a batch of play-doh (a recipe my mother had in the 70's) and kept it on top of the fridge in a Tupperware container ("Eeeww, mom, this stuff isn't as good as REAL play-doh...why is it gray? Why are there bumps in it? It's gross.") Aaargh! Ingrates!

With broken Crayolas and sore fingers, I've colored countless flowers, animals, Disney and other cartoon characters - you name it, I've colored it, and I've colored it well. I've sat on the floor and played “Power Ranger castle” for hours on end to the point where both my legs fell asleep and I ended up dragging my body across the carpet like an army recruit just to answer the phone. I wrenched my back building forts out of chairs and couch cushions. I've kissed and bandaged many a thump, bump, and boo-boo. I've held a baby in the bathroom with the shower running at 2 AM - with a cough so vile and LOUD that in the end, I was the one who needed holding. I've rushed a child to the hospital in sheer panic, and I’ve calmly suffered the bruising incurred from a death-grip hold my daughter used to ward off pain and fear of routine shots at the doctor's office.

I've fed, clothed, washed, and driven my children everywhere in the tri-state area just to ensure that their early years were properly enriched - to be absolutely certain that they would have some meaningful "mommy and me" time. There were art classes (I still have the dried bean and macaroni "family" my daughter made when she was 3 and the tissue paper sunflowers my son made at 4). There were swimming lessons, Jujitsu lessons and other organized gym classes (oh yeah, got stuck in the sponge pit for about an hour - it took three "helpers" to get me out), and there were the free library story times and the endless play dates with the biters and pickers from pre-school.

So, in a nutshell, The Yellow Bus of Salvation symbolizes freedom to me, or better yet, freedom FOR me, if only for a few short hours. And though I inevitably start missing my children halfway through the morning, I still think the first day of school is akin to savoring the most delicious piece of cake at the best party in town. I love my children with the fierceness of a lioness, and I'd throw myself in front of a bus for them. And yet, for those individuals who bravely drive a bus, one big YELLOW BUS in particular, I'm voicing my gratitude. As you carry away our precious offspring, you are delivering something special as well: Freedom to the masses of women (and men) who crave some necessary down time. Thank you. Try not to be late.

Kimberly Valzania is a freelance writer of children’s educational materials and books. Her current passion is writing humorous articles on the trials, tribulations, and joys of motherhood and parenting. She lives in Connecticut with her husband of 15 years and 2 children, and she can be reached via e-mail.