It was an unexpected twist in my morning routine. My friend Makes Bread had an early flight to catch, and she asked me to stay with her little boy until the school bus arrived.
When I got to her house on this cold and dark winter morning, her son was still eating his cereal while she was jamming all manner of items into her carry-on bag. I left her to her frenzied packing while Crazy Full of Energy and I sat at the wooden table and read a book about spiders. Well, mostly, I looked at the photos of spiders while he pretty much recited the entire book from memory. It was clear to me, from page one, that this little kid knew way more about spiders than I did. The only one I could identify accurately was the black widow spider, and that was mostly from the caption that said, "Mating can be DANGEROUS."
When Quilt Artist arrived, Makes Bread stopped cramming stuff into her bag, grabbed her coat, and hugged us goodbye. Crazy Full of Energy and I waved as they pulled out of the driveway and then started the ritual of putting on his outdoor clothes: coat, mittens, hat, backpack.
It's been years since I stood outside in the cold, waiting for a schoolbus. My own kids, when they were little, were able to just watch the bus from inside the house and run out when they saw it coming. But it's funny how quickly the memories come back, even after 35 years or so.
Within minutes of standing at the end of the driveway, my face began to feel cold. I looked hopefully down the road, but all I could see was the occasional car, speeding past through the snow, red tail lights glowing.
"We better jump to get warm!" yelled Crazy Full of Energy. He took off his backpack and set it on the ground, and we both jumped in place, stamping up and down in the snow.
When I was a kid, I went to a small Catholic school where the uniform for girls was a plaid skirt and knee socks. My bare knees would freeze on icy winter days, as we stood in the cold, waiting for the bus. I vowed to always wear pants in the winter when I was old enough to choose, and that's a vow I've pretty much kept. But even with jeans on now, my legs were getting cold.
Down the street, I saw some flashing lights, a glimpse of yellow. "Hey! I think it's the bus!" I said eagerly.
"Probably just the first bus," Crazy Full of Energy said in a resigned tone.
Oh, how I remember that. Our district likes to send out these phantom buses that circle neighborhoods, not picking up kids, not doing anything, just teasing those of us who are shivering in the cold. Apparently the sadistic practices of the bus garage have not changed in forty years.
The first bus went by, and then the second. It occurred to me to wonder what I was going to do if the right bus didn't show up.
"Hey, what school do you go to?" I asked Crazy Full of Energy. It seemed like information I should know. Or at least, information he should know. Surely a kid who could memorize a hundred interesting facts about spiders would have learned an important detail like the name of his school.
He shrugged. "I dunno."
"Is it the one with the pine trees around it? Or the one right on the main street of Traintrack Village?"
He shrugged again. "I dunno. Wanna see me jump over my backpack?"
Across the street, the sky began to glow pink, reddish hues filling in the soft spots behind the bare branches of a tall tree. I could see lights coming on in some of the houses, as the neighborhood began to rise. More and more cars began speeding past, hurrying to work.
And then suddenly, just as I was about to give up hope, the bus pulled up, making that squealing sound only school buses make. The door magically opened as the driver leaned forward. I held Crazy Full of Energy back until the bus was completely still, and then put his backpack on him and gave him a hug goodbye. He climbed up the stairs quickly, and then turned at the top to wave and grin. I waited in the cold one more minute, watching the bus pull away, before climbing into my car and driving towards the sunrise.