Do you remember the when back to school meant the end of freedom? When it was new backpacks and pencils? Do you remember that rush you got when opening a new box of crayons for the first time? Most of the time it seems like a lifetime ago. But yesterday when watching my kids wait for the bus, I felt it all again. My oldest son heading out for his first day of high school, feeling full of pride that he had finally made it to the big time. His smile full of expectation and hope that this year would be different. My younger son ready for 7th grade, too cool to get his picture taken, but still young enough to want a hug before he goes out the door. My daughter, my baby, on pins and needles dancing on her toes ready to tackle middle school.
I remember standing in the chilly morning air watching the road waiting for that big yellow bus to sweep me into a world apart. I remember the sun just cresting the horizon it’s golden rays sliding off the bright yellow of the bus winking off the windows as if it knew a secret. I remember my heart in my throat as I followed my sisters, dragging myself up those black steps and into the long canyon of green plastic seats. I would drop into the nearest empty seat and huddle next to the window, pulling out a book to help me escape reality for a few more minutes. At every stop I would chant in my head ‘Don’t sit here, don’t sit here.’ Of course the bus was always full so I always had a companion. Most days my seat mate would be more than happy to leave me alone, laughing and chatting to the people around us. I would huddle lower and hold my book as a shield. How I longed to be one of them, able to hold a conversation without stumbling over my own tongue, tripping over my words. The thought terrified, even as it enticed. Every day was a challenge, a battle to be won. Each day I would brace myself to endure the crowded hallways and loud lunch rooms. Each day I avoided those beautiful confident people that surrounded me, wanting to be like them, knowing I never would.
But slowly, slowly I began to make friends. A shy smile here, an answer to a question there. Through the years God has given me friends when I needed them most; Yvonne, Nori, Felicia, Angie, Patti, Nancy, Aleta and others through the years. My parents and my sisters have always been there for me, but God also gave me friends to help take me through the dark times of Elementary, Middle and High school, through college and beyond. As I send my children off to face their own school day fears, I pray that God sends them friends, good friends who will offer them acceptance and encouragement and a listening ear to help them thrive in a dark and scary world that has grown even more terrifying since my own demons were faced.