Tracy Dean had been wanting to help the girl on her bus for a long time.
As KSL News reports, Dean drives a school bus in Alpine, Utah. For the past two years, she's been driving 11-year-old Isabella Pieri to school.
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Isabella's mother died two years ago after a long history of illness. Dean told Dearly that she knew Isabella had lost her mom, but didn't know it was so recent:
“Every now and then she would tell me how she missed her mom so much. It would bring tears to my eyes. I told her that her mom was her guardian angel and she was watching out for her all the time. It seemed to bring comfort to her.”
With Isabella's father having to leave early for work, Isabella has to get ready for school on her own. And that means doing her own hair every morning.
As Philip Pieri told KSL, he'd been so stymied by the challenge of doing his daughter's hair that he'd initially cut it all off:
“I originally just gave her a crew cut because I didn’t know how, and it was all tangled and I couldn’t get it out for anything.”
When her hair grew out again, Isabella took over, but couldn't manage much more than a quick ponytail in the morning.
But then, one of Isabella's friends needed help with her hair in the morning and asked the bus driver for some assistance. It was the opening Isabella needed to ask for a little help too. Dean told Dearly:
“Just after Christmas this year, one of her four other friends that ride my bus told me that her mother and father had started an earlier shift at work. One morning she was struggling braiding her own hair and she asked me if I would help her. I told her, 'Sure. Let me get the other kids off the bus and will pull up and braid your hair.' Isabella stayed on the bus with her while I braided Scarlett's hair. I started doing her hair every day for the next two weeks. And Isabella had the courage to ask me if I would do her hair.”
When Isabella asked for help, Dean was thrilled. She told Dearly her first thought was “Oh thank the Lord above," because she'd "wanted to comb [Isabella's] hair last year but I didn't want to hurt her feelings.”
It was the beginning of a very special relationship. Dean now does Isabella's hair most mornings and has taught the young girl how to brush her hair without damaging it. She told KSL that the ritual holds a special meaning for her:
“Seven years ago, I found out I had breast cancer, and that’s one of the things that went though my head — who is going to take care of my little ones? Not that my husband couldn’t do it, but you know, that’s what moms do. They do their kids’ hair.”
In passing on her knowledge, Dean says she feels closer to her own mother. She told Dearly, “My own mother is a beautician so I kind of felt like she was a great teacher to me. And I've taught my own children. I might as well pass it on to somebody who doesn't have a mom.”
Isabella's teachers have noticed a change and say she started to hold her head a little higher when she started getting help with her hair. Isabella's father says he's “amazed” at how the bus driver stepped up to help his daughter.
And Isabella definitely appreciates the time Dean spends with her. She told KSL:
“It makes me feel like she’s a mom pretty much to me. And it makes me excited for the next day to see what she does.”
For Dean, it's just one more way that she's able to help “her kids.” As she told Dearly:
“I love all the kids on my bus. They all have their own story. They are all very unique in their own way. You have to have a lot of patience to drive a school bus.”