Gotta take that adventure, in order to understand your journey.Jennifer Pierre
My mother and I do not share the same name, but we share the same twisted humor, the same interest in watching tear-jerkers over and over (“Ross! You weren’t at the castle!”) and our voices are nearly indistinguishable on the phone, though we look nothing like each other. My free spirit and need to walk ridiculously long distances has always been a head scratcher for her, but I think this short essay on my first day of school many years ago, gives us all a clue.
The first day of school that year, it rained. Not hard, but enough that all three children – Eric, Andrew, Alison– wore their slickers. I, in my raincoat, stood safely waiting behind the screen door of our house on the hill, watching down the long, glistening damp drive for the school bus to arrive.
For two years, Alison and I had walked hand in hand to see the boys off. She called it the “cool bus,” and was just as excited as they were each day it arrived. She and I would wait until the boys boarded the bus and found their seats. Then, we would wave enthusiastically as the driver pulled away from the curb.
This day was different. It was Alison’s first day of kindergarten, and she was going to join her brothers – Eric, entering third grade and Andrew, entering second. There was a new intensity in our waiting.
The house was set on a hill above the road, and the driveway sloped down to the street. It was a large property, owned, as was the house, by the Presbyterian Church in South Salem, New York, which my husband served as minister. The house was three stories tall, a handsome Victorian with a bay window on both the first and second floors and decorative stained glass in the attic window. Not the first manse, which had been moved across the street, but the newest one, built in the 1870s. It had a full attic on the third floor and four bedrooms on the second, one of which we used as a playroom and study – a separate place to watch Captain Kangaroo and do projects together. We loved it!
The town was founded when New York was still a colony, so there were birthdates in the 1600s carved into the gravestones in front of the church. The church itself was founded in 1752, the first building built of logs. The current church, known as “The Old White Church,” was part of the older section of the town, so there were many homes that were built in the 1800s and a few that predated the Revolutionary War. It was a haunting, yet lovely place to live.
This morning, the air was misty, and the trees loomed dark against the vivid green of the grass. It was early September, so the leaves had not yet begun to change. The only bright color was the yellow of the children’s slickers and the bus itself.
“There it is!” one of the boys shouted, and all three dashed through the door, down the steps and onto the driveway.
I impulsively started down with them, but they were too fast for me.
At some point, I reached out my hand for Alison’s, but she was already chasing after her brothers. She never looked back.
When they reached the bus, they got on quickly. Without waving or even saying goodbye, Alison found her seat and was on her way. She had been waiting for this moment for a long time.
I remember standing there that misty morning with a smile on my face. I can still see all three of them running down the driveway in their yellow slickers, like three yellow birds in flight.
It was a bittersweet moment, of course. My little girl would never need to hold my hand to meet the school bus again, and I was happy for her. But my youngest yellow bird was leaving the nest, and I felt a momentary sadness. She and I had crossed a threshold and would not return the same.
Over the years, she and I have needed to “hold each other’s hand” during difficult times, “before the bus comes,” but this moment had been a triumph, a step in her growing up.
There we were, surrounded by a church, graveyard, and minister’s house, each filled with tales of triumph and loss, staying and moving on. And we were a part of the ongoing story – my three little birds and me, standing there in the rain knowing its inevitability, torn between wanting to stop time and to hasten it on.