We had just moved to Oakville, Ontario from Willowdale, and everything was new: new town, new house, new school, and new friends. Some of these friends I would grow up with. Others would sort of disappear into the ether of my memory. And still others take on this sort of mythic quality, like characters in one of my favourite stories.
When I was in kindergarten, kids went for a half-day, either in the morning or the afternoon. I had afternoons. The morning kids were like figments of someone’s imagination.
I remember a lot about how my schoolmates behaved, what they looked like then, what they were interested in. Doug was the class clown, a role he’d play for as long as he and I shared classes into our early teens. Sean was a kicker, and he wore hard shoes. Frank was scornful of girls. He warned me about them. Sanjay took it upon himself to watch my back as the new kid too, girl-wise.
I didn’t listen.
A field trip had been organized and, if my hazy memory serves correct, it was to a maple syrup farm. How Canadian is that? But this was a special field trip. Because the Morning Kids were coming with us on the same bus. The Morning Kids — the mysterious creatures who were in our places when we weren’t at school. And other kids were coming. I was in Miss Fish’s class. Mrs. Guthrie’s class was coming too.
The experience of a field trip, as far as I know, isn’t much different today than it was then. The chariot of choice was the Bluebird school bus, which are, as everyone knows, non-intuitively painted a flaming yellow. The seats were vinyl, slippery, and no seat belts. When they made the Bluebird, they skimped on the shock absorbers. You feel every bump. And the noise?
The design for a vehicle to take kids on field trips is the same one that serves to take criminals to prison.
But the field trip wasn’t notable for the ride there. And the maple syrup farm remains just a series of snapshots in my mind: a silo, a blue sky, an expanse of maple trees, the movement and voices of my classmates removed from their normal contexts and put into this new one.
It was about a girl.
She was a Morning Kid. Or a Mrs. Guthrie Kid. I don’t know. She was an angel. I don’t remember her name, and I don’t remember her outside of this one memory. Maybe she moved away soon after. Who knows?
She was a blonde girl, with a neat bob cut sharply in line with her earlobes. She spoke well, and I remember her speaking to one of our teachers as an equal — articulate and musical. She must have been my age, but she seemed older, wiser, like a mythical creature, or a ray of pure light.
I never spoke to her. She made me feel a certain way, a strange way. I couldn’t put a name to it. But I think it was that tingly feeling that happens just before you fall in love with someone.
The rest of the day is just another series of impressions: a sunny day, a noisy bus ride, the voices of the other kids, a farm (I think?). But whatever kind of day it was, I remember missing it. That in itself is remarkable — I remember wanting to be back in that day again. Not just for the little girl with the blonde bobbed hair, although she was the jewel in the crown.
But what is truly remarkable was my realization that I’d had a memory that I could treasure, keep for myself.
And I do.
Bluebird School Bus, Wikicommons.