To Infinity, and the Bus!

From the moment she could talk, our daughter was telling us how she was going to take the “Big kid bus”  on her first day of school. At first, she’d surf along the back of our sofa, peer out our front window, and point at it with a near-toothless grin.

“Bus! Bus!” she’d call out in excitement. Eventually, she’d walk to the kitchen and tug at my shirt, telling me how she wished she could be on that big yellow bus, too.

“You’re too little right now, but some day, honey, some day,” I’d tell her.

Some day arrived today. It crept up on us like dusk creeps up on one of those perfect summer days –the ones you wish could go on and on forever. They don’t. Nothing lasts forever.

“That’s just how it is,” our daughter would say.

I could have used her five-year-old wisdom as that school bus pulled away today with half of my heart sitting on it. You prepare yourself for days like this. You tell yourself you must be strong for your child. I was. But I wasn’t prepared for her to run up to the bus without hesitation, climb the stairs like she was conquering Everest, then sit somewhere on the far side. In the ridiculously perfect movie-moment that had played in my mind for ages, she was peering out a window in our line of vision, blowing big fish kisses at us, waving at us–needing us.

As the bus pulled away, I clumsily chased after it a little, hoping she’d hear me say “I love you,” hoping she’d catch me waving madly at her. This was, of course, the scene in the movie where Mom looks like a complete idiot. Our daughter was oblivious to all activity outside the bus. She was gleefully talking with one of her little friends from down the street. She’d made it atop Everest, and she was happy.

I’d promised myself I wouldn’t call a soul for fear of spending the morning like a blubbering fool, but when we got back to the house, my fingers magically made their way to the phone, then dialed my mother.

“So, she’s off then? Did it go okay?” she asked. The moment I heard her voice, I burst into tears.

“Yeah. It went great. She didn’t even wave goodbye! She sat on the other side of the bus!”

“So, for five years, you’ve been working hard, preparing her for this moment. Making sure she’ll be okay. And now you’re crying because she’s so well-adjusted, she didn’t need to wave goodbye?”

I couldn’t help but laugh as I wiped the tears off my cheek. “Yeah. I see your point.”

Parents who have been in my place before have hinted to me that today was smaller than I think. It was just a pebble in an ocean of slippery rocks and perilous waves. Someday, our daughter will want to cross that ocean, losing sight of the shore completely. Today was just a first step–and it’s pretty clear she liked getting her feet wet.

It’s been our ritual for years now to say goodnight in an unusual way. “To Infinity!” I call out from her bedroom doorway as I turn out the light. “And beyond!” she responds from under the sea of glowing stars Daddy pasted on her ceiling.

In my always flamboyant, often clumsy, non-Disney-Mom manner, I will love this girl to infinity and beyond.

Today, I just needed to love her all the way to that bus.

'Big Steps' copyright 2010 by Heather Grace Stewart

9 responses to “To Infinity, and the Bus!”

  1. This is beautiful Heath. My son and I watched a Soccer game on Sunday – OK it wasn’t Old Trafford (Man Utd’s Stadium), but it was still v special, and Man Utd fortunately won! These moments mean everything I think, thank u for capturing this in such wonderful style.

  2. Thank you so much for the link to this. I’m not a mom, but this still plucked my heartstrings.

  3. Well, that made me cry. I am way not ready for this at all and its coming up FAST.

  4. This is a big milestone for both of you, and this shows that you both made it through ok. Your Mom is right: we raise them to be self-reliant and independent and then we get upset because they don’t wave, or call? I’m glad you could laugh through the tears.
    Memories of first days came flooding back for me too. Thanks for sharing this–and yes do keep it for your girl to read when her child has that first day at school.

  5. You did it again Heather. There is such humanity in your writing it is going to bring out the entire range of emotions. It has been 15 years since Steven climbed on the bus for his first day of Kindergarten and I managed to relive it, just by reading this.

  6. That is EXACTLY how I felt but could never have expressed it that well. This should be read by every parent on the morning of the First Day of School and re-read all throughout that loonngg day.

  7. We can walk to school. This time last year, we were doing practice walks to see how early we would have to leave.
    Laura marched into her first day of school the same way your daughter strode onto the bus.
    I drove by at lunch to make sure she was okay. She was. And like any good mom writer, I immortalized it in my blog.

    Moms are allowed to cry at milestones. We’ve earned the right through stickers, play dough on the carpet, various bodily fluids on things that are hard to clean, and 6 straight months of only making grilled cheese sandwiches…

    Hugs. Good job mom.

  8. Wow, memories flooding back. Your writing is so real it touches me all the time.Yes, it may be a small blip on the chart of a long and happy life, this first, but it’s a big moment for both of you. And what better gift to give your daughter than this memory, in writing, when she has her own child and waves goodbye to the school bus. And your mom is absolutely right.You did well, Mommy. 🙂

  9. Wow, Heather you made me cry…this is beautiful, and you should be so proud of yourself too. She is obviously a very confident little girl. I had to take my son to college for enrolment day today. The first time I took him I was totally overwhelmed by the whole change for him. I wrote a poem about it, it’s on my blog, it’s called, The College Drive. I find it’s the only way sometimes to distract myself from tears. I’m such an emotional basket case.
    Anyway my dear…thanks for making me cry in a warm and gooey way. I do love to read your stuff.
    Love and hugs. Lisa. xxx

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