the walking school bus

In case you didn’t know, today was International Walk To School Day. I have mixed feelings about having to dedicate a day to walking to school, but the reality is most kids don’t have the luxury of walking to school anymore. We certainly don’t, as we live about 3 miles from my daughter’s elementary school and the roads are busy, winding, and full of morning commuters. However, I do park up the street to avoid the school drop off traffic and we take a short five minute stroll to campus each day.

From my own childhood, I can’t torture my kids with stories of walking five miles in hip deep in snow to a one room school-house with no heat. But I do remember walking to school by myself from kindergarten through ninth grade. My elementary school and junior high were only a ten minute walk away from home. I have one vague and interesting memory that involved walking home from kindergarten in the rain. It was before we moved to my childhood home in Bellevue. I remember it being a long walk to school, up and down a very big hill. Anyway, it was a rainy day and I was trudging home, when our neighbor from across the street drove up in her beat up VW beetle and offered me a ride home. I recall saying I wasn’t allowed to ride with strangers, but she convinced otherwise and drove me home. It was all fine, they were nice neighbors, but I don’t think my mom was too happy with me when the neighbor dropped me off. I’ll have to ask if she remembers me doing this.

I also remember accepting candy from stranger (a nice elderly man just passing by our yard) when I was really little. Yes really. I survived an old saying, but that’s another story.

I should emphasize this was the early seventies and things were just a bit different back in those days. In the end, I was raised to be very self-sufficient and walked myself to school every day with no problems.

Flash forward to the current day.

My school and many other schools have established safe routes called the “walking school bus.” The routes are managed by parent volunteers, run weekly, and kept to a strict schedule. You must be at the pickup point on time if you want to join in the fun. Today was special, they encouraged the whole school to participate in the walking school bus program. So, we picked our route, left extra early, and drove to the bottom of the hill below the school. I parked and we walked over to the corner for our pick up.

The girls anxiously awaited for our walking school bus to arrive.

Right around eight o’clock, our walking school bus came around the corner. Orange balloons blew gently in the breeze, the parent volunteers wore bright orange safety vests, and laughter floated up from the group.

It was a beautiful sunny October morning. We walked for about a half mile up the hill towards Ava’s school. Ava walked with her friends and chatted about whatever six-year-old girls chat about. She carried her orange balloon proudly. She dropped back to us several times to talk about what she had discussed with her friends. We laughed. Mia held my hand as we walked, and we chatted about whatever four-year olds and their moms chat about.

In about ten minutes, we arrived at school. At the school gate, I signed Ava’s participation card with her name and teacher. As we walked to her classroom, Ava asked, “Can we do it again tomorrow????”

“Why not?” I said.

So, on the days we aren’t racing to school because we don’t want to be late, I’ll park just a bit further away and we’ll enjoy a walk to school.

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