When I was a little girl I rode the school bus home. The bus stopped and dropped off all of the children who lived in town before it made its way up the mountain to drop off us Mountain Kids. I am not sure if that was a resounding term that we all called ourselves, or if it was just me. Knowing me, probably the latter. But “Mountain Kids” was what I always referred to when speaking of the children who lived in the mountains where my family dwelled.
The bus ride sometimes took an hour and a half before it would ever reach the dusty dirt road that would lead to my house.
It was a long time for a child. The Mountain Kids would gather in the back of the bus as it made its slow twenty minute trek away from town.
The first kids to be dropped off would always be The Ranger Kids. They were a subdivision of The Mountain Kids. The bus social system was complex. There were many branches of Mountain Kids. I have not even gotten to the kids that dwelled at the top of the mountain near the prison and the campgrounds (two words that always go great together) or the kids who dwelled at the bottom of the rocky hills in the country club subdivision. I am not sure what my best friend and I were called. We lived in the middle of the two classifications. Perhaps “Bob’s Gap Kids” named after the skinny road that wound between two mountain ranges that both of the roads leading to our two homes forked off of? I never thought to ask. The Ranger Kids’ parents were forest rangers and they all lived together in a circle of homes.
One of The Ranger Kids was a handsome boy of about nine years old to my six. His name was Stephen and not only was he older but he also had the dreamiest brown hair that would sweep into his eyes. He was tall and lanky and towered over the rest of us children.
He was an entrepreneur.
Stephen would craft plastic bracelets at home and then sell them on the bus for a dollar a piece. The jewelry was constructed of shiny plastic beads strewn onto an elastic band. They would glimmer in the sun with their brilliance. I wanted a bracelet beyond anything, but I never found myself with any money to purchase one. It is a tragic happenstance of being six years old. One of the few cons in a neglected pool of positives.
I watched daily as Stephen’s jewelry supply would dwindle.
I am not going to lie. It was panic inducing.
So, I did what any self respecting child of six who had a crush on a child of nine would do. I begged. I pleaded. I sniffled. I moaned.
“Please. Please, Stephen. Please can I have a bracelet? Just one. Just that clear one right there. Plee-e-e-e-assssssse.
“Oh! And I love you.” That always works, right?
And every day I would watch Stephen get off of the bus with his bag of sparkling sensations while I held my sad bare wrist.
One day while we were all seated in the back of the bus and it had begun its long journey through the winding roads that would lead to The Forest Station, Stephen did something unexpected.
Before I could begin pleading my case for one of his creations, Stephen scooped the clear plastic bracelet out of his bag and placed it in my hand.
I could. Not. Believe. It.
It felt perfectly weighted on my small wrist.
It was amazing.
It was at that moment that I was convinced that Stephen loved me, too.
At the age of six, I had no words to express my gratitude, so I can imagine I stared at him like a cartoon kitten with eyes too wide to blink.
Stephen exited the bus swiftly, probably immediately regretting his generous decision as I waved frantically to my love from the window.
The next day I wore my bracelet and I excitedly waited for
my soulmate the bus after school.
Stephen did not show up.
This was repeated daily for a week before it became common knowledge that Stephen’s family had been transferred to another ranger station. I never saw him again.
I lost the bracelet soon after, but the generous and innocent gesture of a sweet boy who did a kindness towards a much younger girl stayed with me to this day.
I found a similar bracelet recently. It was more than a dollar. But not by much. I guess inflation never reached the beaded bracelet industry. It was a good thing that Stephen got out of the business when he did.
When I wear my new bracelet I think of us Mountain Kids formed together in a common bond of weary time travel. I think of twisting roads and tall trees. Of a bag of similar but entirely different bracelets. And I think of how one small act can shape one’s entire future.
I wear my shiny bauble and I smile.
This time I know what I would say to Stephen. And it would be simple.
I would say those two words and I would hope they would convey more than gratitude for a simple piece of jewelry. I hope they would impart the appreciation from one child to another for teaching me that a selfless act of kindness can leave a mark that lasts a lifetime…
Coupled with a small obsession for shiny things.