I felt a twinge driving to work on Philip’s first day of kindergarten. I wanted to stay home to see him get on the school bus. It was irrational. Being there the first time wouldn’t help me control what happened after the yellow doors closed. Still, I thought how that would be the first of countless times I wouldn’t be there for pick-up or drop-off. It was one of those moments that made me hate working outside the home. But there would be no home without my job, so off to work I drove.
Less than a week later, I got to fulfill my stay-at-home-mom fantasy. I walked Philip to the bus. I took pictures while we waited. Most of them came out sideways and blurry since I was afraid to let go of Philip’s hand and he was in his usual perpetual motion mode. The bus stopped at the end of our street, the doors open, and I gave Philip a gentle push. He took his time climbing aboard, soaking in the still unfamiliar sensations: the rumble of the engine, the smell of the exhaust, the feel of the hand rail, the stretch required to get his small legs up the big steps. Finally, he took “his” seat in the first row, right side. The driver handed him a small bag. Peter had told me about this. It holds toys to keep Philip occupied.
I waved at Philip as he rocked in his seat. The doors closed and the bus pulled away. I snapped a photo. By some small miracle I didn’t cry. Maybe it was because I knew that things were okay even though I can’t be there.
It turned out that, because of Peter’s surgery and the related doctor’s appointments, I’ve had several opportunities to send Philip off to school and welcome him home. I’m not the only one doing the welcoming. He is greeted by other children on the bus in the morning and gets a warm send-off each afternoon.
On the day of Peter’s surgery, a substitute driver opened the doors. I was explaining how Philip’s aunt would meet the bus that afternoon. A boy standing behind the bus driver and helping Philip with his bag nodded at me and said, “Okay!” That was more reassuring than anything the driver could have said.
Yesterday, I put Philip on the school bus once more. He had been crying because I made him stop playing and put on his shoes. He wailed as we waited, frustrated that I wouldn’t let him stomp in puddles and probably tired from being up since 3 am. He kicked at the stones in the road and tried to pull away from me.
I saw it coming. “Oh, look. It’s the bus!” Philip immediately stopped crying. He didn’t smile, but his face relaxed. He stopped tugging to break free of my grasp. He stopped kicking gravel into puddles. He waited, rocking slightly.
The bus hissed to a stop and the doors opened. “Hi, Philip!” I heard from inside. I even got a few waves and smiles myself despite my infrequent appearances. I guess I rate okay as Philip’s mom. I waved back and watched the bus pull away.
By some small miracle, I didn’t cry.