Getting kids ready and out the door for school is a hectic job. Our mornings here are part choreographed dance, part intense negotiations (mostly regarding coats and shorts wearing), part Control Tower instructions for the day’s flight plan, and part Administrative Assistant duties making sure everyone has all the things for that particular day, if we can remember which particular day it is. Because Ben is getting ready for his own day at school, most of the morning (and sick kid) duties fall to me. The same was true when I was a kid but in reverse as my mom was teaching and my dad was working from home (a.k.a. farming).
A lot of my childhood memories of time with my dad stem from these before school times. Growing up in the country, my brother and I rode the bus to and from school in the town seven miles away from our farm. Interacting with buses and bus drivers is a whole different ball game as a parent which I just learned last year when Truman got preschool busing privileges because of his speech IEP (our school district only buses for special cases like that). Even though you are given a window of time for pick up and drop off, the schedule inevitably gets off on more days than not. Because I never wanted to be the reason our driver was waiting, Trumy (and Wilsy) and I spent a lot of time watching from our front door so we would be ready to send him out to the bus as soon as it pulled to a stop in front of our house.
At the farm, this was a trickier situation based on landscaping alone. Our farm house sat back from the road at least a half block of distance and we had a grove of trees to the north (which is the direction the bus came from) so unless we were out at the end of the driveway, we couldn’t see if the bus was almost there or not. I remember plenty of times having my dad holler, “The bus is here!!!” causing my brother and I to fly out the front door, down the porch steps, and sprint across the yard and gravel to the waiting bus doors.
Sometimes we wouldn’t spy the bus in time and one of us would see those doors closing as the bus pulled away, headed to the next stop before we could even get to the porch. When that happened, my dad would toss us in the Jeep and drive us to the next stop or wherever we could catch the bus which it seems like we always did because I don’t remember him ever having to drive us all the way to town.
In winter, the Jeep or a pickup was sometimes our warming station, when Dad would drive us out to the end of the driveway to wait with us instead of us just standing there in the frigid SoDak air. We’d jump out and climb aboard the bus and he’d back down the driveway and go about his day which most likely included a stop in the kitchen to have another cup of coffee or four (the man can drink coffee at all hours of the day and always has).
If that day happened to be a sick day for one of us, though, it was often my Dad who would take us to the doctor or set us up with a “nest” in the living room. For the record, we still use this term today in my family and the kids know to ask for a nest (sheet over the couch with blankets and pillows from their bed/ones that can be washed) when they don’t feel good. We grew up in the era and location, though, of having three TV channels, so a lot of Sesame Street and PBS was watched on those days, along with my Dad’s favorite morning show, Live with Regis and Kathie Lee! Between watching and snoozing on the couch, he would bring dry cereal to eat or baby applesauce and sometimes Mac and Cheese – whatever comfort food sounded good at the time. As we got older, he’d make sure we got our make up work from school and could work on it in bits and pieces until we returned to class.
There was a great deal of routine and consistency with my dad even though anyone who knows farming knows just about anything can happen on any given day. He was always busy on the farm and was often headed out to the barn or some field or the machine shed, but he was never far from home or us, even when he was occupied with work. Because I was so used to him always being there, a memory sticks out from a time when he went to take a phone call or check on something and I had to get on the bus by myself without saying “goodbye” to him and I was so not OK with that. I have no idea how old I was but I do remember being distraught over not getting that proper send off from him.
While I am fairly certain this game existed before the sad bus departure day, one way my dad built a routine goodbye was with a competition to see which one of use could remember to say, “Love you, said it first!” first. We’ve played this game ever since both in person and over the phone. Whoever can say that exact phrase first when a conversation is wrapping up wins and the other person fakes indignation and tries to win the next time we talk.
Whatever the origin story of the game, my dad was always there to get us out the door, set up a nest, or play a little game to remind us that even in the midst of hectic farm life, he was there to see us off and also offer us comfort when we needed to rest.
And because I need to snag some photos from the farm yet, my stash is fairly limited, so instead I have an image of us dancing at his brother’s wedding reception:
*this is Post No.2 from my year-long Writing Challenge.