Ok, there wasn't a river, but there were woods - and that was what I used to walk through in order to catch my bus to elementary school. This memory came back to me recently with the news of a 9 year old who was told to get off her bus and was left at an unfamiliar bus stop. The bus driver was fired. Thankfully, another students parent was able to get her home, but it got me to thinking about my own "busing" experience.
I didn't have to take the bus until I was in 2nd grade - ironically, I walked the same route to my first school, but at the end of the path it was clamoring with parents and students and a crossing guard. Sadly, it closed down after 1st grade. The bus stop to my new school was now across the street from my old abandoned school, in an empty parking lot, across from a bowling alley and on the edge of "the woods".
Each morning, my girlfriend Tammy and I would walk down our street, around the corner and down a woody slope covered in tree roots that would serve as stairs. I can actually see/feel myself walking down them now. From there, we'd walk about 25 or 30 feet through some woods, out to an open "field", and then down another hill that didn't have any trees or roots to steady our decent. So, in the winter that usually meant we had to slide down the hill like we were qualifying for the luge. I have vivid memories of sending our books down first, and we'd follow at 100 mph. At the end of the hill was the parking lot.
On the way home, that same slippery slope could be muddy or icy and on an occasion felt like Mt. Everest. But that was the commute - and it wasn't a convenient stop at the end of our street, and it wasn't even around the corner, and it wasn't well lit or monitored.
Today, that walk would be unheard of and unimaginable, but we did it, parent-free, every morning. And I when I think of that walk to the bus, I automatically think what has changed in the world? That's a loaded question, right? I watch parents in my hometown gather at the end of streets waiting for the bus to unload their kids. Few of them walk to their houses - most of them jump into a car or get a nice escort home. Through mud, ice, snow or sleet I never expected to be greeted at the bus stop and when I did get picked up, it was a special treat, and probably a blizzard or tropical storm brewing.
My daughter takes the bus now from her school to her after school program and she loves it. It makes her feel independent and grown up. And I don't mind because there is someone to help her get on and someone to greet her getting off the bus - no mysterious woods in between!