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.