August 17, 2011 Edition

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School for first-timers

Sandra E. Graham
Guest Writer

As a grandmother, I can't spout words of wisdom and dictate a formal list of do's and don'ts for nail-biting parents and their hyper-spastic offspring, but I can tell you what it's like to be the grandmother of a wee one who has to be lifted up by the arms and placed on the first step (because it's too high for his short legs) of that big yellow bus.

And that bus is so big and noisy that tears start streaming down his tiny face as he turns imploringly back to you. You can read it in his eyes - he doesn't have to beg, "Please, Grannie, take me back home. Don't make me go."

What earlier in the morning had begun as a great adventure, suddenly becomes a terrifying unknown. And where once there had been a brave little warrior there stands the baby that he truly is. Your heart melts and aches like nothing it has encountered before. You have qualms yourself.

The school bus driver patiently waits while you try to console the love of your life on his first day of school. This is a credit to the driver, as he has an hour drive to pick up all the kids on his route and get them to school on time - and probably deal with other 'first-time' mothers, fathers and grandparents. Silently you look up at the driver and hold up one finger, asking for just one more minute to get the persuasion process in gear. Briefly he nods, but begins to fidget and glance at his watch as the minutes tick away.

You hug your baby grandson to you and kiss the top of his head, all the while whispering how everything will be fine and the bus driver is such a nice man who will take very good care of him and make sure he gets to school and goes to the right room where his new teacher will be waiting for him.

He is crying so hard by now that he begins to hiccup and struggle to breathe. You are beginning to have hysterical thoughts of your own. What to do? You can't send him off like this, but you can't fail his parents by not filling your responsibility to him and them.

Your tears have begun to mingle with his as he grips your neck in the tiny vice of his arms. You look up once more at the bus driver. Now he is staring straight ahead, trying not to witness the unfolding drama on his doorstep.

Finally you find the strength to pull the tiny arms from around your neck. You have wiped away your own tears, and his own crying has finally eased to minor sniffles. Firmly you raise his chin and look into his eyes. You tell him again that today he is a big boy and today he will board his bus and go to his school alone. Smiling your biggest and brightest smile, he feels the contagion and the beginnings of a tiny smile turn up the corners of his tiny mouth. "OK, Grannie. I love you."

"I love you, too, baby."

He turns and stretches his little hand up to the rail and pulls himself up the remainder of the bus steps. Now the driver is smiling down at Grannie as he closes the doors and waves her good-bye.

You stand there and wave to the little face that has popped up in the window and smiles down at you through tear-stained streaks. He has made it. His first day of growth, learning and adventure has just begun and you know he will be OK. But what about you?

You quickly rush back to your parked car and with tears running down your cheeks again, you start the car and, at a discreet distance, pull out behind the bus, wiping hard at the tears, and follow it on its route to school. Then you sit across the street and watch as he climbs down from the bus - jumping from that first high step. A teacher is there to greet the beginners and line them up for the walk to their classroom.

They have disappeared inside and you drive away; smiling. You know that your brave little warrior is back and he'll make it. Of, course, you will be sitting across the street again at three o'clock to see him get on his bus and to follow the bus back to his bus stop just in time to be there to pick him up - as though you had never left.

And together you will both have grown up one more day.

Sandra E. Graham, a native of Walnut Ridge, is a 1965 graduate of Egypt High School. She has two books "Amos Jakey" and "Nicolina" published by American Book Publishing and also writes book reviews for authors through Book Pleasures. For more information on Graham or to contact her, visit www.sandragraham-articles-books.com.

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