• Helen Row Toews

Prairie Wool

Let the good times roll

So, the first day of school has come and gone. It’s good to be back as EA and bus driver for Marshall School. When my bus ground to a halt at each house that first morning, kids piled up the steps with varying degrees of happiness and resignation on their faces.

One boy rolled dramatic eyes skyward and sighed as mom told him to pose for a photo. Yet another was shocked at his parent’s flagrant lack of attention and yelled over his shoulder, “Hey, Mom, aren’t you gonna take my picture?”

Seat assignments were given, and friendships that had stood the test of time (otherwise known as two months) were rekindled.

There was a moment of panic when a wasp was detected, but that was soon handled by a boy with a binder, and my usual refrain of “Sit down” and “Stop hollering. I can’t hear myself think” were employed once more.

As an EA, my other job, there were also a few stand-out moments. I spend all afternoon in first grade now, and Thursday was a long day for the kids. However, it was a piece of cake for a sweet little girl named Paisley. She sat happily listening to stories, followed directions to put away her things, and busily wrote the letter S—ten times.

Then, she warmed my heart when she drew a picture of her and me on a tiny piece of paper and pressed it into my hand with a shy smile and glowing eyes. It meant a lot. There may be a distinct lack of arms in the picture, and baldness doesn’t suit either of us, but we both look happy, and that’s the main thing.

The next was when the class went outside for a nature walk. Such times are always filled with wide-eyed wonder, and this was no exception, although not quite how you might think.

As I walked beside another sweet little girl named Hope, we discussed her deep desire to “Go home now.” In an effort to prevent the tears that threatened to spill, since I’m her bus driver too, I assured her that I would take her to be with Mommy really soon. I gestured across the playground toward her house and explained that she lived just over there.

“And I live in a house down that road,” I said, pointing the opposite way and smiling.

She stopped dead. Her eyes widened with incredulity, and her mouth dropped open as she regarded me with surprise.

“You live in a—house?” she asked in a slow, disbelieving voice.

Covering my laugh, I conceded that, yes, it was true. Kids are often surprised by this fact. If they never see me outside of a school setting, it’s logical to think I couldn’t exist outside of it. And since I begin and end my day on a bus, it becomes reasonable that I must pull down some lonely road to gobble a solitary meal of canned beans. Then, it follows that I must sit bolt upright behind the wheel throughout the night or bed down on a cold vinyl seat; my only goal in life to drive again at dawn’s first light. It makes perfect sense.

Ah yes, school is back in session for another year. Let the good times roll.

For more of Helen’s stories or to check out her books go to: helentoews.com

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