The yellow bus pulled away from the curb after swallowing up my children.
I checked the time, my eyes stinging but dry. It was 8:35 a.m.
The Champ had climbed up and disappeared, followed by his sister, who took a moment or four to catch up with her beloved bus driver.
Neither looked back.
It had felt like forever and an instant until the bus closed its doors.
I had an undeniable urge to run to the house, gather all the kindergarten preparatory books in our collection – you know the ones that remind newly minted students to remember mom might be sad they are going off and leaving her – douse them in kerosene and light a match.
They never looked back.
I shook the notion out of my head and tried to refocus my eyes on the bus as it rumbled forward.
Their dad was waving, first at the place upfront where we assumed The Champ would be seated and then at the very last window, where, through the tinted glass, we could see Ittybit all smiles and self possession. She was finally the Big Kid at the Back of the Bus.
“Are you OK,” he asked me.
“Oh, shush,” I said waving away his offered embrace. “Do you want me to cry?”
Only the dog, straining against her leash, was outwardly bereft.
“Where are my people going? Why didn't we go, too? Are they coming back?”
Sure. It sounded more like: “Wrrrooown. Broughhhhh, arrrrrrrrrooooooooo.” But I knew what she meant. I had known this day was coming and yet I hadn't filled my schedule with anything beside waiting for the bus to return.
My husband went back to work. The dog and I went back to the house. And waited.
In silence. Eerie, echoing silence.
“This probably wasn't the wisest thing to do,” I told the dog as I put the breakfast dishes into the dishwasher and scanned the room for more things that needed doing. She just glared at me.
Even she knows there's always something that needs doing.
“You know ...” she sniffed. “If you hadn't gotten those dog-proof toilet paper dispensers I would have made us a party complete with confetti.”
She's really not much help.
I collected trash, laundry and dishes abandoned throughout the house. The things I started got finished. The things I straightened stayed in place.
The dog just watched me, head low. Moaning now and again at my apparent lack of concern for her children. “I don't even feel like shredding any of their toys,” she wailed in despair.
She slunk off to the window where she could see the bus stop while I swept the mountain of multi-colored papers off the dinning room table into the recycling bin. I wasn't entirely sure I'd read all of the important ones, but I was confident their school would send more.
Eventually the message would get through.
The dryer alarm sounded.
Laundry, folded. Bathrooms, cleaned. Bedrooms, straightened (OK not really … I closed the bedroom doors, which lends the same effect).
It was only noon. 12:10, 12:15, 12:16 ...
Errands will take our mind off it.
I grabbed the leash. “We're going for a walk.”
The dog looked at me, skeptically.
“What if they come back … and we're not here … ARE. YOU. OUT. OF. YOUR. MIND, HUMAN!!!”
“Leftover bacon,” I sang as I held up a baggie I'd stashed in my pocket.
“Did you say bacon? O.K. Let's go.”
Post office. Library. Farm market.
A doll catalog. An overdue picture book. Highfalutin bakery treats.
I tether to dog and meander inside.
“Where are the kids today,” ask the clerks behind each of the counters.
“First day of school,” I smile to three separate faces.
“Ah … so sad and wonderful at the same time. … It goes so fast,” came their choruses of camaraderie.
“Except for today. Today is just crawling by.”
Home. 3 p.m. Not long now.
The dog starts to pace. I pace with her until the phone rings.
“This is your school district calling,” said the automated voice at the other end of the line. “Buses will be delayed today by at least one-half hour.”
“Arrrrrrrrrooooooooo,” says the dog plaintively.
“I couldn't agree more.”