For the past few weeks, I've been watching the same sad drama unfold outside my living room window every morning at about 8:30 AM. It's not that I sit and wait for it; I'm already in my big armchair, reading the newspaper and having my second cup of coffee. Or, if Piper has decided it's Time, I'm having a Snuggle with a huge orange marmalade cat, rendering any movement at all completely impossible. (More than once, I've mistakenly played an Unintentional Word in Words With Friends; it doesn't always work out advantageously.)
But I digress.
At 8:30 in the morning on Mondays through Fridays, a school bus pulls up to the house two doors down, and the sound of a child crying and wailing begins. Soon, a little boy of about six appears, backpack on his back. Sometimes his mother carries him; other times he slowly walks, rubbing his eyes or his head with one hand while holding his mom's hand with the other. It's crying only--no words, no complaints--just a steady bawling which reaches a higher pitch as soon as the doors whoosh open. Each day, the little boy and his mom have been greeted by a cheery, merry bus aide. She calls out his name--it sounds like it might be Charlie? Marty? Barney?--and asks how he's doing. Is he ready for school today? She carefully takes his hand and helps him to walk up the steps to the bus. She won't carry him; he has to walk himself. The doors close, and the bus lumbers away.
The first time this drama unfolded, I initially focused on the little one, naturally. My heart broke for him. He clutched at his mother; he looked so tiny and his backpack looked so large. He's so afraid! I thought. And he has to go on that big huge bus! That poor baby. What if he cries the whole way there? What if someone is mean to him? Then I looked at his mother, who lingered at the end of the driveway, watching and waving, then standing there, hands clasped at her chest. How awful for her! To know that her baby is so sad and so upset, and to be unable to do anything but watch. I remembered my own guilt: I couldn't take my own kids to school on their first day because it was always the first day of school for me, too. I would always spend odd moments of the day wondering. So much of raising children is Heartbreak!
In the ensuing days, the tears have not subsided when the bus comes. Each day, the mother brings the little boy to the bus, still crying. The bubbly aide tries her hardest to jolly him up, but nothing has worked thus far. "He's a little crabby today," said the mother yesterday through the wailing. I wondered why she bothered to say anything. Maybe, though, he does stop crying on the bus at some point. Certainly he would at school. I'm not entirely certain, however; today as I was gathering my mail, the bus dropped him off. He was crying.
All of this is in stark contrast to the other little boy three doors down from me the other way who used to get picked up by a van for his school. A happy-go-lucky sort of kid, he was very hyperactive and didn't seem to have any sort of concerns about going off to school at all. As a matter of fact, one morning as he was leaving, he yelled loudly, "So long, suckas!"
A performance that was never, at least to my knowledge, repeated.