I pulled out of my driveway a little later than usual -- as usual -- and headed up the street toward my still sorta new job as a middle school English teacher.
It was a lovely day. No rain, no fog, no trains blocking my path. So why did I nearly lose it in a heap of tears just two blocks down?
Because I'm a mom, that's why. And I'm the mom of a kid who is about to graduate from high school. And I never really know what's going to set me off. Last week it was the last back-to-school night. Ever.
On this day, it was all the kids -- and their parents -- waiting for the bus.
They were in front of just about every other house, waiting for the big yellow school bus to stop. And, somewhere in the background, there was a parent -- a mom in pajamas or a dad in shorts, cup of coffee in hand.
And yes it made me cry.
You see, it wasn't that long ago that I was that parent who had just dragged herself out of bed and thrown on the first clothes I could find to go stand out by the side of the road to wait for the school bus with my kid.
It was 10, 15 or sometimes 45 of the most special of our moments together. Uninterrupted. Even the mother-in-law, when she lived with us, knew that she could not have my attention until after the bus came. This was our time.
While we waited for the ever-punctual Miss Mamie and the not-so-reliable other driver, Lora and I got in some quality time. We talked about school, her friends, her teachers, how our days would be. Sometimes we shivered in the cold and the rain. Sometimes we hid in the fog. Once or twice we got to crack thin sheets of ice in the driveway puddles and watched our breath float in the air. We often used the morning sun and our shadows to make funny shapes.
Usually, this was the time when she remembered that she needed 13 things for a science project. Or it was my day to bring treats for the whole class. Or that she had to have her permission slip signed TODAY. Or that her throat REALLY hurt.
A couple of times we forgot it was a late take-in day.
We always made the most out of our time together, though.
We would sing, dance, play games. I made up silly songs for her:
"Waitin' for the bus,
Just the two of us.
She's gonna get inside,
And then she'll take a ride.
Miss Mamie's gonna stop
and on the bus she'll hop.
And then she'll get to school
And it's gonna be cool."
OK. I'm no rapper but I can entertain a first grader.
There were a couple of times I didn't want to put her on that bus. I just wanted to grab her and squeeze her and make her spend the day with me. The day after Sandy Hook, was one.
One day as the bus came, she ran back to give me one more hug and kiss.
But then one day she rolled her eyes and said, "STOP IT!" Then crossed her arms and stormed off.
Then one day she said, "You can stay on the porch, mom."
Then one day she said, "You don't have to get up."
Then she started riding with her dad to high school.
And now, she drives herself.
So, yeah. I wanted to pull over that morning to pull those moms and dads aside to tell them to cherish these moments with their babies. Have fun. Play games. Tell stories. Sing songs.
Because one day before you know it, she's going to tell you to wait on the porch and the bus is going to pass you right by.