By Marie Giangrande
The bus was slowing down in front of our house. The sound of screeching breaks and tearing metal cut through the morning fog.
Just moments before, at the kitchen table, we talked about this first week of school and catching the bus. We rehearsed the routine: We’d stand under the eaves, away from the rain, until we hear the bus approach. Then, she could run down the driveway and meet the bus as it crunched to a halt.
“It will be great to make new friends,” she reflected about the first day of school. “But I’m sad Christie is not in my class.”
She was more chatty than usual and I struggled to watch the time, serve breakfast, pack the lunch and engage in conversation. There was another comment she made about the bus - that this year would be different... But it was 7 a.m., time to run to the door. Vinnie, the bus driver, was always on time.
The moment of departure was here. My daughter tore from me with bounding leaps toward the bus. I watched her board, wobble under the weight of her side backpack, and select a seat.
But she did not turn to me. No final look, no thumbs up, no wave from the window. No last chance for me to give her a reassuring smile.
Mom, this year I don’t think I’ll wave goodbye from the bus. This was the part of her plan that I had missed. Or maybe it was my disbelief.
My fifth grader, both arms outstretched reaching for the next piece of life had to, by definition, release her hug.
The doors vacuumed shut, the yellow monster yawned and then roared forward. I stood in the doorway listening to the calming ‘whoosh’ of passing cars glide through the puddles, as if this were just another day.
The light rain, the moist air, my slow breathing, my tearful eyes… pre-school, kindergarten, first grade and now fifth grade: Reminders of how close ‘the first’ time is to ‘the last’ time.