Sunday, June 13, 2010

Memory Bus

click on the photo to enlarge it

John, Boz and I were walking in the neighborhood the other day when I noticed these flowers behind a fence. I began to photograph them when I saw a school bus parked ahead. The sidewalk led my eye like a fast lane through a tunnel of memory.

I didn't always ride the bus to school. My mother was a teacher in my grade school and junior high. Needless to say, I had a regular ride. In high school, I usually carpooled with friends or walked when it was warm enough. On winter days, if the carpool wasn't available, I rode the bus. It picked me up at the stop sign at the end of our street, the last street in town before the cornfields.

It wasn't exactly toasty on the bus in northern Illinois in 1970, and those were the days before seat belt laws. I remember sliding from side to side on the cold seat on the way to school and just being glad I didn't have to walk all the way there in the snow.

Here in sunny, southern California all that is behind me. My friends are going through final exams, school plays, proms and graduations with their kids. Everything's different. Then again, nothing's changed.

Despite the bright yellow flowers and a sunny afternoon on the way, that school bus looks exactly like the one that used to pick me up at the end of our street on snowy, winter days.


Mlle. G said...

The first time I saw snow I was 11. I played in for an hour. It didn't seem real, nothing did.

I love your stories. I hope I didn't get you in trouble with that mean old Sicilian ham hocker.

Trish said...

love the black eyed susans---they would have drawn my eye too, and camera!

perspective is an amazing thing---as is the similarity of color of the susans and the bus.

love the cohesiveness and tunnel vision concept too!

Shell Sherree said...

We didn't have a school bus, so it was fun taking a ride with you on your memory bus, Petrea ~ and those flowers are so cheery.

Jilly said...

A lovely photo and beautiful writing. Isn't it fascinating how we remember things? I think my memory as gone and suddenly, one tiny thing and everything floods back. Reading your words encourages me and my writing, Petrea. Thanks.

Virginia said...

What a dear photograph. I'll bet you can still remember how the bus SMELLED! Isn't it funny how we remember those things?

Lori Lynn said...

Charming post Petrea! In Chicago, we didn't have a school bus, we rode the CTA. Love the memory of the cold seats.

Thanks for the kind words on my blog.

Petrea said...

So far he still likes me, Mamselle. He hasn't seen the post yet. But I take John with me for protection.

Trish, I liked the color match, too!

Shell, your school must have been close. I think mine was only a couple of miles. But when it's 20 degrees below zero those miles are long.

What a sweet thing to say, Jilly, thank you. Little details, little memories spark big ones sometimes.

Funny, I don't remember how it smelled, Virginia. Often, though, an aroma will trigger a memory for me.

Lori--That makes sense. Those crowded streets wouldn't need another bus; the CTA was enough to do the job. The CTA--there's another memory for me! (And you're welcome.)

J+P said...

Nothing is real when you're 11. Those years are felicitous dreams and we floated like dandelion seeds.

Yesterday our street had barriers up for our annual block party. All the kids got to play in the street. Three generations of neighbors lounged around and ate and talked. I watched the faces: the kids, in their unknowingness; the parents in their watchfulness; the old-timers in their softness. Our street felt … ancient. The talk was silly and forgettable.

When the food was gone, we folded the tables. People straggled back to their houses. The empty street was quiet. After a while, porchlights came on, just as they have all our lives.

Most of us reading this blog are, I think, middle-aged. This is part of our talk, which includes our conversation with ourselves. I sat up last night as the streetlights burned like sentinels along our street. I thought about that leafy lane, that old bus—all the things which remind us how we got here. Sometimes we stay up late, waiting for something in the dark. What comes, but memory?

A photo like this, and it all comes back … those rumbly days; the shoes that hurt; the intimacies and enemies. The lost days—school days, play days. Long afternoons spent commanding the block, 'til twilight. My street looked like my old street. And I thought:

Let the houses fill and spill their lives. Let the back rooms fill with old folks like graves. Let the little ones to the door; fill their lives like little cups. Let them fill the street; the dusk will come. It all spills back where it came.

Sarah said...

Fantactic line way for walking!

TheChieftess said...

Wow!!! Between your post Petrea, and John's comment, I'm getting teary eyed and nostalgic!!!

altadenahiker said...

Oh yes, and driving past the farms and watching the fields change with the seasons. Not a lot of livestock that I recall, just miles and miles of corn.

Bellis said...

Wow, Boz owns two very talented writers. Lucky Boz! You've brought back my memories of school buses. Early on, there was the unfriendly German driver who always drove too fast and once collided with a poor old man on a bicycle. (He was OK, but I've never forgotten how shocked we 8-year-olds were). And later, when I was a teenager in Malaya, there was the handsome young driver whom we were all in love with. Come Ramadan, however, our Hussein was in a bad mood every day for a month because he couldn't eat between sunrise and sunset.
Kids who are driven to and from school by their parents have no idea what they're missing out on.

TheChieftess said...

I so agree Bellis!!! We used to walk to grammar school every day...sometimes down the street, but often times over the fire road and down to the park...all by ourselves!!! It wasn't until Jr. High that everybody carpooled...then in high school, I was the oldster in my class and one of the first to drive...and back then, we could take our friends to I was the designated school driver!!! We had much more independence back then...

Eleonora said...

The photo is beautiful and full of deatil and depth, but the story of the young girl on the cold bus and her memories of school days is the best.

Thank you for sharing it all here.
E xx

Petrea said...

I'm amazed and delighted by what this post has evoked. Some things are universal, or close to it.

Margaret said...

I walked or rode my bike to school. Rain, snow, sleet and sun. It would never have occurred to my mother to drive me, but now driving is the norm for most kids I know.

Petrea said...

We live in such a different world now. I suppose in small towns kids can still ride their bikes to school. Or are parents just more protective? Rightfully so, I'd say.

Ms M said...

Lovely photo -- and thanks for the memories. I rode a bus like that to school, too, since we lived in the country and it was too far to walk.

The flowers are gorgeous! Love J's thoughtful piece about memories and the block party, too.

Dina said...

I always wondered what it was like on those school buses. Thanks Petrea.
I just remember walking far to school in Chicago winters, wearing warm pants underneath the stupid compulsory skirt.

Thanks to John too for his words.