Life Beyond that Bus Stop

If Norman Rockwell painted a picture of a bus stop, I think it would be mine. Not mine exactly, but the one where at least one of my children has stood for eight years waiting for the school bus to pick them up and drive them to their Norman Rockwell-esque elementary school by taking just three left turns and then return them at the end of the school day by taking three right turns.

The bus stop is at the top of our quiet cul-de-sac which looks more like an overgrown forest than a small tree lined suburban street. Years ago, my kids informed me that the actual bus stop was precisely on top of the slate rock that has sat firmly nestled into the grass at the corner for more years than we’ve lived here. Looming high over the rock is the wrought iron street sign which announces the name of our cul-de-sac and also serves as a pole for my kids to climb up on when the bus is running late.

I can so clearly remember the first day I walked my son to the bus stop on his very first day of first grade at the elementary school just three left turns away. I kissed him goodbye, watched him march up the too high for him steps onto the bus with his name and class room number printed on a tag hanging from a red piece of yarn that tied around the back of his neck. I hoped that the yarn would stay on his neck all day and that the same kid would get off the same bus when it looped its way back to our stop. He did.

I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve walked or driven (on the really rainy or cold days) to that bus stop over the course of nearly a decade. So many of those walks/rides were forgettable, a benign, check it off my to do list, robotic part of my day. Clean up breakfast, pack lunches and get to the bus stop. Before my brain knew it, my body somehow sensed that 3:47pm was fast approaching, and I needed to finish up my work, answer one last email, or head home from wherever I was to get to that bus stop.

Other moments at that bus stop were less forgettable – the rainy morning where my son slammed his finger in the car door rushing to get to the bus and broke his finger, or the afternoon where my daughter raced home to greet me walking briskly halfway up the cul-de-sac and then fell badly scraping her knees and chin. More tears came on the day when the two giant and very loud dogs across the street from the bus stop somehow escaped the electric fence in their yard scaring my daughter more than her bloody knees.

For so many of those days though, I remember feeling so happy at that bus stop. On the afternoons when I wasn’t so rushed with a work project or a life project or life, I would walk up to the bus stop with a few minutes to spare, grab a seat on the slate rock, and if the sun was shining just so, I could feel it on the back of my neck as I looked out for the bus to make its final right turn and bring my kids back home to me.

I’m pretty good at recognizing a good thing when I’ve got one. I’m not one to let a happy moment pass me by without recognizing it for what it is. When my mother was really sick, right before she died way too young, I asked her if she thought we appreciated our good life together more because she had gotten so sick. She said no. We always appreciated the good stuff when we had it, and I should always try to do that. It’s important to do that, she told me.

I know I’ve had a good thing at that bus stop for all those years. I also know that I won’t be able to protect my kids from the proverbial broken fingers, skinned knees and scary big dogs out there in the world beyond that bus stop.

My son graduated to the bigger middle school bus stop on the other side of the neighborhood two years ago. My husband usually drives him there very early in the morning, and my son usually finds his way back home from there at the end of the day. In the fall, he will move on to high school. My daughter will take his place at the middle school. She only has a few weeks left at that bus stop — her bus stop, our bus stop.

I know that kids and young adults will take much bigger steps this spring graduating from high schools and colleges, starting new jobs and moving to far away parts of the country and the world. I know that perhaps on the surface that losing my bus stop seems to pale in comparison.

But I also know that there was just something about that bus stop. It was so good and I knew it was so good. I’ve loved that bus stop. I will miss that bus stop.