By Qin Sun Stubis
I grew up in China during the Cultural Revolution when school children’s first and most important color was red: Red national flags and revolutionary slogans, red Mao quotation books and red kerchiefs around our necks.
A couple of decades later, I started a family here in America and had a second chance to experience childhood as my own children grew up. This time, learning seemed to be connected with a very different color: school bus yellow.
I still remember taking my son to a bus stop on his first day of kindergarten. His tiny hand trembled in my shaky one. We both cried when the bus finally arrived and a matron helped him aboard. I froze as it pulled away, taking my baby, my eyes glued to that intense yellow, a color that stayed in my head all that day until it shrank to a dot in the distance. I kept on worrying about him and couldn’t wait for the bus to bring my son back to me.
Soon, the school bus became an important part of my life. I stood on the street corner in the morning amongst other parents and children, in rain and shine, frost, and fog, waiting. Tears turned to smiles and butterflies fluttered in my stomach no more. Each morning’s routine became an idyllic social time when mothers chatted, and children played games and chased each other until we caught sight of our familiar yellow school bus.
Every afternoon, I returned to the same site, eager to get my child back and learn everything and anything about what happened in school that day. Eventually, I even got on the bus a few times myself, accompanying children on school trips and living my second childhood. As I sat amongst chirping kids and the sound of the humming engine, I chased the memories of my own, very different school days….
I got to know quite a few drivers, many taking on the job after retirement for some extra cash and a little company. There were also single mothers making a meager living, struggling to provide. They got up at the crack of dawn to drive other people’s children so their own would have food on the table. To me, all these yellow buses have a personality because of their drivers, the men and women who work hard to keep our children safe.
Through the years, the same yellow buses took my kids from kindergarten to high school, from Great Neck, Long Island to Bethesda, Maryland. They saw my kids grow from little boy and girl to young man and woman. Before long, my children headed out to the bus stop without me.
But, inside the front door of my home, my protective eyes reached out, watching as the bus screeched to a stop, collected the kids, and hummed merrily away. My yellow school bus.
This June, my second childhood experience will finally come to an end: I’ll soon see my daughter, Halley, climbing onto her yellow school bus for the last time before attending her high school commencement and heading to college in the fall.
Though it seems that my journey with the American public school education is over, I will bear the imprint of that magical yellow in my heart along with many wonderful memories of my children growing up. And, I know that this very special golden tint will continue to color the lives of many more children and parents.
You can always reach me at email@example.com.
(originally published in The Santa Monica Star)