My dad used to tell a story of how when he was a boy he had to walk miles to school, across farm fields and up steep hills, in rain or snow, to get to the one room school house in rural South Dakota. Throughout the years when he told this story, his trek to that little white school house got longer and more strenuous. The distance grew. The hills became impossibly uphill no mater which direction you traveled on them. There was never a sunny day and the wind always blew. This story usually came up when my sister or myself complained about some great injustice or another that we were forced to bear, such as having to help haul firewood from the back pasture to the little woodshed next to our house. Dad would put down the ax he was using to split kindling, wipe his brow with a red and white handkerchief he always carried and start recounting.
It is in this spirit that I feel it my duty as a mother to provide my children with similar experiences that they can embellish upon, if they see fit, when they have kids of their own who complain about having to clean their room or mow the lawn. The walk to the bus stop is as good a place as any to start building these stories.
The distance is roughly a quarter mile on mostly flat, paved ground. About half the walk is in a wooded area with the occasional house tucked almost out of sight. There is a nice sized grassy field bordered by a blackberry thicket that grows wild and is supplied water by a natural creek, fun for throwing rocks into. Past the creek there are a couple more houses and then the neighborhood nursery that specializes in trees, shrubs, and landscaping. If we are lucky we get to wave at a dump truck driver or a passing excavator. The actual bus stop is on the nursery’s property and is decorated with some nice plants and two large statues; a rooster and a turtle.
In my unwritten mother code, if it is above freezing, not too windy, and does not look like immediate rain, we walk the quarter mile to the bus stop. Sometimes this bites me in the arse and we get caught in the rain without an umbrella. On most days the boys actually prefer to walk. I am sure the time will come when they won’t want to walk and it will be then that the seed to their I-had-to-walk-miles-in-the-rain bus stop story will be planted.
I enjoy our four day a week walk to the bus stop. We are making memories, building character and supplying the boys with material for their childhood tall tales: “why, when I was your age…”