8: The Wheels on the Bus

8: The Wheels on the Bus

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tough Times, Tough People

The Wheels on the Bus

After a day’s walk everything has twice its usual value.

~George Macauley Trevelyan

My seven-month-old sat in my lap, blowing bubbles and blinking at the circle of moms and babies surrounding us.

“And that’s the way it is for us,” Alison said, bouncing her son on her knee. “It’s not easy.”

I glanced at the clock above their heads and jolted upright. “Oh! I’m sorry, I have to run!” I said, collecting Aidan’s blankets and toys and shoving them in the basket beneath his stroller. “The bus is going to be at the curb in ten minutes and I have to make it this time.”

As quick as a new mom could, I stuffed Aidan’s arms and legs in his snowsuit and hustled out of the classroom, down to the street corner, my scarf flying behind me. It would be close, but because the ice had already melted on the sidewalk, I jogged to the bus stop, sweat already forming beneath my itchy, wool hat.

Slowing down, catching my breath, I wheeled Aidan to the corner and stopped beneath the sign for the 134. Seconds later, the huge white bus wheezed to a halt in front of us, exhaust pluming behind it. The driver kindly helped us aboard and I sat, spent, opposite the back doors, sinking into my seat, admiring my now sleeping baby. I closed my eyes, listening to the rumble of tires beneath us, and dozed on the ride home.

It had been five months since our family had moved and sold our car. Living in a city as big and vibrant as Boston not only kept us busy, but also kept us watching our wallet. Moving from Fairbanks, Alaska, with a new baby in tow, we knew we needed to cut back on our expenses in order to save for his college fund, our retirement funds, and to be able to eat a good steak dinner once in a while.

We didn’t realize that paring down would not only deposit more money in the bank, but also improve our health and the environment. Saving cents quickly started to make sense.

The bus rumbled into the station and moments later, Aidan and I were strolling to our building, about a half-mile walk. The crisp air and early afternoon sun left me feeling energized in the dead of winter.

Without a car, I’ve had to take the bus each week to the New Moms group across town. The ride, though admittedly inconvenient, has introduced me to my neighborhood and saved us loads on extra car costs—expenses we couldn’t rationalize at this time in our lives. Aside from New Mom meetings, my husband, Tim, and I have hoofed it to shops for necessities such as groceries, baby supplies, and household items—something we probably wouldn’t have done, especially in February, if we’d had a car.

But, looking up at the bright Boston sky, I resolved to keep at it. I’d already shed my pregnancy weight due to all the walking and I felt good about not polluting the environment with the gas-guzzling SUV we sold in Fairbanks.

That evening, Tim helped me get the baby ready for bed. Aidan lay on the changing table, smiling and cooing at his father as I stood back and watched.

“I’m getting better at this,” Tim said, fastening the diaper beneath Aidan’s belly. With four quick snaps, he had secured the red cloth diaper. A month ago, he lamented the loss of Velcro, but I couldn’t help but admire his deftness with diapers now.

“He looks great,” I said. Together, we buttoned up Aidan’s pajamas, a fuzzy footed outfit I’d gotten for a dollar on Craigslist. “Do you want to read to him?”

Tim nodded and sat down in my parents’ old glider, Aidan in his lap. “Okay,” I heard him say as I left the room. “Would you like to read The Very Hungry Caterpillar or Trucks?”

Last summer, when Aidan was born, we were overwhelmed with the number of accoutrements that magazines and Internet sites deemed necessary for bringing up baby. The little hats and onesies were cute. So were the baby slings, baby swings, battery-operated gizmos, SUV-sized strollers, and solid wood cribs.

But we couldn’t afford all that. We didn’t want to get sucked up in the vortex of All Things Baby and have nothing in the bank. “Aidan wouldn’t care if he wore hand-me-downs,” I said.

“Cloth diapers would save us loads of money, especially if we had another baby,” Tim replied.

“If?” I rubbed his arm. “Don’t you mean when?”

We researched our options, talked to friends who were scaling back in similar ways, and decided on used cloth diapers.

“It sounds gross,” Alison said to me after one New Moms meeting. Her son lay on the ground, his ankles in the air as Alison removed one wet diaper and replaced it with a new, clean one. Pumpkin orange. “But it’s not. People take good care of them before they sell.” She’d just told me about an online diaper community where people sold their babies’ cloth diapers for a fraction of the retail value. “I got a $20 diaper for only eight bucks, shipping included,” Alison beamed.

“And that diaper will last you...”

“Months. Maybe even all year.”

When I told Tim about it that evening at dinner he nodded. “I’ve been saying cloth all along.”

“And you’ll still change him? You’ll flick poop in the toilet?”

Tim set down his fork. Maybe my timing wasn’t the best. “Sweetie. Get the diapers. I’ll flick.”

As the ground thawed, flowers bloomed, and Aidan crawled commando-style around the house in his multi-colored diapers, I decided it was time to find some summer clothes. My chunky baby had stretched into a lean, lithe goo-ing machine.

I left one Saturday afternoon with a friend and came home with two stuffed garbage bags. Tim and Aidan sat on the floor surrounded by blocks. “What do you have there?” Tim asked, eyeing my stash suspiciously. The last time I went to a community clothing and toy swap, my net results overtook the living room.

I lay my findings proudly on the carpet. OshKosh overalls, Carter’s pajamas, babyGap shorts—all free! “And look at this,” I shed the second bag and revealed a Fisher-Price play station that tinkled with music—“London Bridge Is Falling Down”—as I set it up. “Isn’t this great?”

Tim pushed a few buttons, the ABC Song starting up, and eventually nodded. “Pretty good.” Aidan pulled himself up, wide-eyed at his “new” toy. “And it was all free?”

“Community event,” I shrugged, happy with my good fortune. “And we have a place to deliver all our used clothing once Aidan outgrows it!”

Tim smiled. I’d done well. We all had. We lived in a big city and could enjoy it too. We’re in better shape today and our carbon footprint is smaller than it was a year ago. At fifteen months old, Aidan is now toddling around in the same cloth diapers I bought last winter.

Resolving to save more money has helped more than hindered our lifestyles. Financial worries exist, but they don’t drive us.

Bus 134 does.

And our feet too, of course.

~Mary Jo Marcellus Wyse

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