The Wheels on the Bus Go Way Too Fast

19 Aug


Ropes of fog dance through the valleys at sunrise, the air damp, laced with the sweet scent of maturing corn, as a collective sigh of relief rolls across the Nebraska countryside. After a long, hot, pressure-cooker of a summer, the morning air has finally taken on the crisp quality that heralds the return of fall, football, and yellow buses on gravel roads…

School is finally back in session!

Summer vacation is a good idea, in theory, but eighty-seven consecutive days of togetherness is pure insanity. By the end of July my kids have seen it all, done it all, grown bored with it all, and eaten me out of house and home. By mid-August they’re bitching, moaning, whining, complaining bumps-on-logs that smell like feet, and I’m one “But, Moooom…” away from a straight jacket.

Usually, when the first day back to school finally rolls around, I’m so excited it feels like Christmas—only better! I stare out the window, giddy and giggling with glee, anxiously awaiting the school bus to pull into the driveway and magically whisk my bickering children away from me, and away from each other, for a few, blissful hours of peace.

But, this year, for some, strange reason, when I watched the bus carry my boys off into sunrise, headed for the big, wide world of Not-at-Home, there was a heavy sadness in my heart that’s never been there before, and I have no idea why.

Maybe it’s because, for the very first time since we started this massive chapter of our lives, neither one of my boys had a brand-new box of crayons tucked in their backpacks. That’s nothing new for my oldest. He’s a sophomore now, and hasn’t touched a crayon in so long I’m not sure he’d recognize one in a line-up. To be honest, he hardly ever used them, even when he was supposed to. At the end of every school year, his Crayolas would come home just as sharp as they were on the day we bought them… except the orange. I never could quite figure that out. Either orange is secretly his favorite color and he used it on everything, or he let someone borrow it. I’m leaning towards the ‘borrow.’

My youngest, on the other hand, loved to color. He still does. He colors and draws and reads and writes, soaking up art like it’s his life-blood. He creates intricate, imaginary worlds with a zany cast of colorful characters living atop majestic mountains in castles made of pure gold—and then he annihilates them all with a demonic creature covered in scales, welding an AK-47 and breathing fire from its second head. It’s disturbing, to say the least, but he’s a boy. I’ve learned that’s what they do.

He’s in seventh grade this year, playing football, growing faster than his shoes can keep up. No more recess or Elmer’s Glue for him, and no more easy weeknights for me. The boys’ schedules are packed with practices, games, drum-line auditions. Permission slips are flying left and right. I’ve signed my name more times, on more forms, in the past few days than I did when I bought my first home, and cash is flying out of my purse so fast I’m beginning to think it would be easier to cut out the middle-man and give the school my PIN number so they can pull what they need directly from my bank account.

Picture day is less than a week away, and it’s all downhill from there. This school year will start rolling by so fast I’m afraid if I blink it will be over, and they’ll be back to bickering their summer away. Or, worse, school itself will be over, they’ll be grown, and they’ll be gone.

In three years, my oldest will be a freshman again, this time in college. That’s crazy to think about, so I try not to. It seems like only yesterday I was a clueless new mother, a midnight zombie singing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” on continuous loop as I walked miles up and down the hallway of our tiny duplex. Not the best choice for a lullaby, but it was the only song that lulled my colicky, screaming newborn to sleep.

He goes to sleep all on his own now, lulling himself into dreamland with an iPod playlist that I’m sure I shouldn’t approve of but let him listen to anyway. There are bigger battles to fight than his crappy taste in music. Besides, if Elvis’s hips couldn’t turn my mother into a heathen as the Catholic Right feared they would, then I seriously doubt whatever it is my son is listening to will turn him into one either.

My oldest can be stubborn and moody and sullen like all teenagers tend to be, but he is also sharp and witty, with just the right amount smart-ass peppered in to make him irresistibly charming. He tends to keep his emotions to himself, his expression often one of stoic disinterest, but every once in awhile, if he’s truly passionate about something, the mask slips and his face lights up like the sunrise. In that moment, he looks like the little boy he used to be.

My youngest is the polar opposite. He’s passionate about everything. Since the day he was born, he’s been a happy, hyper, little chatterbox who laughs in his sleep and isn’t afraid to cry. He loves everyone and everything, and his Venti-sized cupful of compassion runneth over. He wants to be a veterinarian when he grows up. My oldest just wants to be rich and drive a Koenigsegg. Knowing him, he will.

I’m confident both of my boys will succeed at whatever they set their minds to. They already do. As much as I’d like to brag and take full credit for it, I know they turned out as amazing as they did all on their own. It happened while I wasn’t looking. I was probably doing dishes at the time.

I can feel the time I have left with them slipping away. I want this school year to drag like no school year has ever dragged before. I want the school bus to stall in the driveway before pulling out onto the highway, and allow me a few more precious moments to enjoy my children while they’re still children, before they grow into the men they are destined to become. I know I can’t stop time, but I would love to see the clock slow down, just a little bit. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

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5 Responses to “The Wheels on the Bus Go Way Too Fast”

  1. Bailey Bristol August 19, 2011 at 1:27 pm #

    Oh my. You made me cry. A beautifully crafted bit of spontaneous memory.

  2. Donna Sturgeon August 19, 2011 at 5:09 pm #

    Aw, I'm sorry I made you cry, Bailey, but I'm so happy you liked it. Thank you for reading!

  3. Wendy August 27, 2011 at 8:53 am #

    I have always been saddened by my kids 'having to' go to school. I don't much care for being away from them for much of their day. The thing that no one warned me about is that it gets more difficult the older they get. (I cried more when my oldest started high school than when my youngest started kindergarten.) I think that's because we are suddenly very aware that the number of 'first day of school's are dwindling. Soon they won't be heading off to school – they'll be heading off to the rest of their lives – without us. I think that's what makes me sad – every first day of school is one less that I have with them.

  4. Donna Sturgeon August 27, 2011 at 10:20 am #

    Oh, absolutely, Wendy! The realization that very soon they will be living their lives "without us" is exactly what scares me the most.

  5. Gina Barlean September 21, 2011 at 9:15 pm #

    Nice post. Brought back memories.

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