(Ford and Jack head into school for the first time / Photo by Kate Bunnell McLean)
It wasn’t that long ago, or so it seems, that I walked by son, Brad, and daughter, Alex, down the street to catch the big, yellow, school bus for the first time.
As soon as they climbed on that massive cruise ship, I can remember running as fast as I could to get back to the house; jump in my car; and speed away to follow that vessel all the way to the elementary school where the children would unload and head into class for the first day of school.
In the little town of Midway, KY. — population 1,000 — the school was located just about a mile away. But Brad and his younger sister wanted to ride that bus. Insisted, on riding the bus. And, as dads normally do, I complied with the request.
It didn’t take me long to catch up to yellow, man-made armadillo, as it slowly inched its’ way toward life lessons and school lessons.
I patiently waited behind every stop, where kids would load on. I didn’t mind sitting right behind, when it powered to a stop; popped the doors open; and driver leaned over to see if a train was coming right through the middle of town.
I didn’t mind that it was misting that morning, either, truth be told. Kind of gave me an excuse to wipe away the tears that may — or may not have been — mixed in.
But I certainly did mind when the bus finally pulled up to the school, and there — right before my very eyes — came Brad and Alex, climbing out of the vehicle like someone navigating down a steep mountain side. The backpacks looked so big and overwhelming that I thought the load would topple them right over like a turtle on his shell. The sidewalk looked so long and daunting. The other kids so big and massive.
Yet, I sat there and watched. And, waited. Then, it happened.
Brad, three years the elder, reached down and grabbed his little sister’s hand. The girl he obviously loved. But the girl he also loved to torment. And, together, brother and sister made their way into the building. Out of sight. Not out of my mind.
It is a memory that most parents carry with them like their first lunchbox. Can’t tell you the name of the guy I just met. But can tell you that rusty, tin box had my favorite cartoon character — Bugs Bunny — on the lid. Every day, mom put a sandwich; a little bag of chips; and a box of raisins in that thing. I opened it every day for lunch like a Christmas present.
Today, I was reminded of that day. Brad, now in his 30s, has two young boys of his own. They live in Columbus, OH, and today he took them to school together for the first time. As soon as I got the picture, I realized two very important things:
Life really does move very, very fast. How is it that my son — who just went to school for the first time yesterday — now has two sons of his own going to school for the first time today? Impossible.
Some things just never change. Or, at the very least, they are not supposed to. Kids are still to be excited about the first day of school. They still sport over-sized backpacks on their way into life, as they get ready to learn, experience, grow. And, we — as parents — still hold their hands with all our might and onto their souls with everything we have to hopefully show them the way. Still possible, parents. Still possible.
Got the pictures from Brad and his beautiful wife Kate today. Made me smile, and remember. And, oh yeah, where the hell is that misty rain. I need it again.
(Jack, on the left, and big brother Ford ready for school / Photo by Kate Bunnell McLean)