Sometimes the trade-off for not needing a grown-up's permission to cross the street, or a taller person to get the good Monopoly game off the top shelf in the closet in the bedroom, proves to be a loss of wonder and an absence of joy at the humdrum.
Driving home yesterday afternoon, I had a doctor's appointment so I crossed over the Gold Star Bridge and took Route 32 through Montville instead of staying on my side of the river to the Pequot Bridge and taking Interstate 395. Route 32 is a main thoroughfare in Montville which has houses all over the place which means, with school back in session, the wheels of the bus(es) go round and round a lot and come to a stop often.
I've ridden buses my whole life including back in Mrs. Hilge's Third Grade at St Pete's in New Brunswick to the corner of Easton and Bloomfield in Franklin Township. I watched our two children get on buses, in Michelle's case far younger, and go farther away, and come home. It's different when you're in the car behind the bus that rolls to a stop every twenty-two inches (it seems) as the yellow lights flash and then on come the red ones as the doors open and the smallest people you have ever seen get off at the end of another adventurous day in education. Yeah, traffic is slow, but so what. There's a lot more life lived at five miles an hour than at sixty-five. Having already been the former and hoping to hit the latter, you'll have to take my word on it. You want fast? Use the highway.
Some of the youngsters I saw were so tiny, they came down the bus stairs one step at a time-left foot down, joined by the right foot on the same step and then over and over again. Lather, rinse, repeat. Just past the Mickey D's, beyond the intersection at the Tri-Town supermarket, the bus halted again and eventually a tiny tot stepped off with a grin that adults have a name for we're not supposed to say in front of kids. He took, perhaps, three steps and a butterfly from one of the honeysuckle (maybe. What do I look like, a botanist?) vines near the fence landed on his backpack.
He'd taken it off his shoulders as quickly as he'd stepped off the bus because, I think, it weighed more than he did. I'm not sure he was even exhaling as he watched the butterfly walk across the Iron Man decal. He studied that butterfly as intensely and intently as one life form can study another in fifteen seconds. And when the insect decided it, too, had learned all it could and took off, the child's already wide grin became even wider and his eyes danced.
He followed the insect's flight path for a moment then saw a discarded water bottle, snatched it up and grabbed his backpack, all in one motion, waved at his mom who'd started down the steps of the house and disappeared inside through the door she held open for him. Not a bad day on the way to growing up, at last that's what it looked like to me.