I was driving down the San Francisco Peninsula the other day and remembered something from long ago that made me laugh so it’s time for another story from the past.
Maggie was 3 and just about to start school for the first time and I was worried about everything. Sending your child off to school is hard for every mother, but sending you helpless, medically fragile disabled child is something else entirely. She was going to pre-school in San Francisco, but I was looking ahead to kindergarten and beyond with fear. At that time Maggie’s school program did not exist. The "involved" kids with communication needs like Maggie were sent to the Bridge School in Hillsborough,(near Burlingame on the map) which is about 10 miles south of the city.
San Francisco sits at the north end of a 50 mile long peninsula. The Silicon Valley and San Jose are just south of the peninsula, so you can imagine it is a very busy corridor for traffic. I was taking the kids to visit my friend Kathleen in San Carlos, which is about 10 miles past Hillsborough. The trip to San Carlos should be 30-40 minutes. I don’t know what happened that evening, but it took us over 90 minutes to get there. It took 45 minutes just to get out of the city. Tim and Maggie were both sound asleep in the back of the car and Eddie and I were in the front seat.
About an hour into this ride, we passed the freeway exit that led to the Bridge School. I said to Eddie, who was 8 or 9 at the time, “This is where Maggie will go to school when she’s 5.” He looked at me in horror and said, “all the way down here? It takes so long to get here, are you going to have to drive her every day?” I smiled at him because I appreciated his concern. He sounded just like me. I told him that it usually took about 20 minutes, not an hour and she would take the bus to school.
Eddie had never experienced a school bus because those don’t exist in the Catholic school system. A bus to him was the Muni, the San Francisco city bus system. We often took the bus or the streetcar downtown. It gets you where you are going and there is almost always something or someone outlandish while you’re riding. It’s free entertainment.
Eddie knew how worried I was about all the changes Maggie was facing. I’m sure he could not believe I was so calm about this. He looked at me like I had two heads. “SHE”LL TAKE THE BUS? How will she know where to get off.”
That image still makes me laugh, imagining my 5 year old disabled daughter on a city bus and hoping she recognized her stop and had the physical ability to pull the stop cord. I suddenly realized there were things I did NOT have to worry about.
Trying not to laugh I just looked at him and said, “Not that kind of bus.”
Note: Maggie never did go to the Bridge school because SF Unified started her wonderful ITALC program when she started kindergarten. That's a story for another day.