When I was growing up I had the safest and strictest bus driver in the whole school. Mrs. Pember was notorious for making kids sit down and shut up (the nerve) and she played no favorites. If you so much as raised your voice above a whisper, you were allocated to the front seat right behind her. She listened to country music before country music was cool, and one couldn't even consider asking her to change the station. One time I remember her scolding my older brother and I because the day before our younger brother had fallen asleep on the bus, and we just left him. In our defense, he didn't go to kindergarten everyday and I didn't realize it was my job to keep track of his precious 5 year old schedule.
It's funny about your elementary school bus driver - I don't think I would recognize her unless I asked her to peer up at me angrily from the rear-view mirror above her driving throne at the front of the bus. But I'd be too scared to ask her to do that, so I could easily pass her everyday here in Ireland and never know it. My brothers and I were the first ones on the bus every morning and the
last ones off, so we got an extra lot of Mrs. Pember time. Nearly 2 hours a day of bouncing around country roads while Mrs. Pember cranked up "Have Mercy" by the Judds and glared at us from behind her tinted brown sunglasses.
But the endearing things about Mrs. Pember were so much more powerful than the semi-scary and intimidating ones. If a child got on the bus crying she hugged them comfortingly. Every Christmas when I would hand her the box of fancy chocolates my mom bought for her, I received a giant hug and kiss on the cheek. And when my parents continuously had to chase our bus down with the homework, lunch, or book bag we forgot....she almost always stopped.
But yesterday as I was on my daily morning walk along the coast...on a cliff along the coast...I thought of Mrs Pember.
Let me step back a second.
We had horses on our farm and every winter we would fence them in to a 50-acre area in the fields around our house. There they could roam through the woods and fields by day.
Mrs. Pember loved those horses. She loved beautiful things. She loved nature. Every time we saw the horses out in the snow-covered field, Mrs. Pember would throw caution and general driving safety to the wind in order the stop the bus and stare at them. She would shout at all of us to get up and look at how amazingly beautiful this particular scene was....the early morning light with the fresh snow, and the grazing horses on the hillside. We all obliged, but couldn't figure out what the big deal was. Every time we came across deer, which was often in our mostly country drive to school, the bus would stop and all 20-40 of us would be ordered up to look across the fields at the deer, or wolf, or other beautiful creature that was probably scared out of its mind and praying that we wouldn't shoot it. By the time I was in 4th grade we all started shouting out to Mrs. Pember when we would see something beautiful out our window. And she always stopped. She made us be quiet, and look. She made us see the beauty in these everyday surroundings that we had grown so used to.
I wish Mrs. Pember could come and see Northern Ireland. Maybe she has. But I know that she would find the beauty in things that I've grown used to. She would make me stop and breath it in when I was too consumed with parenting, or too arrogant to see it. She would force me to be reminded of the amazing place I am in. And she would make me appreciate it even more than I already do.