Is there anything more beautiful than the first day of school? A season of renewal is upon us. You see fresh haircuts, crisp clothes, attitudes of hope and possibility- and that's just the moms.
We line the streets in pajamas, spandex, business suits and uniforms, our coffee mugs raised to the sky as we chant, "Move that bus! Move that bus!"
We love our little darlings, truly we do, but as Billy Ray Cyrus once said to his mullet: "All good things must come to an end." (I don't know about you, but I'm really glad he said that).
Summer is gone, as is our will to cook three meals a day, swim in the lake and watch Johnny's eyeballs dangle out of their sockets from excessive Xbox activity.
The kids seem happy, too. After all, it's only a matter of time before they can scrap the 65 pounds of required school supplies strapped to their little bodies and return to the lightness of their youth.
My 10-year-old is all about preparation. He spent "the night before" in extensive grooming, hoping an elaborate effort might hold him for the year.
"I showered and clipped my toenails and fingernails, and I brushed with the toothbrush that spins and cleans the best, and I used both Listerine and Smart Mouth."
"You're my kind of man," I replied.
The 15-year-old made a brief appearance to report, "I shaved."
What he shaved, I'm not sure. I didn't press for details, but I thought about checking the cat.
I remember sending my oldest child to first grade. This was back when I still had enough energy to be sentimental. A crop of red hair and freckled, he was the essence of innocence climbing onto that bus. He headed straight to the back, uninhibited by the older kids who usually claim the forsaken territory.
Two or three days into our week, I waited with my son at the drive to wave goodbye. He took his seat on the school bus, window side, third from the back. He looked out and down, straight into my eyes.
I started to consider what he might be thinking...perhaps how much he loved me, or how much he would miss me.
He lifted his small hand and, as sure as Christmas...he flipped me the middle finger.
It was like watching the horror flick "Child's Play," where the Good Guy doll transforms into the Chucky doll.
I wanted to scream, "Who are you, and what have you done with my baby?" But I was stunned and simply stood there mouth agape, ingesting the fumes of a bus long gone.
Somewhere along the route, he had been taught that such a gesture simply means, "Have a great day!"
Yes, sometimes we learn more than our ABC's at school.
For all I knew, he was probably wishing everyone in his path "a great day!"- from the principal to the teacher to the janitor.
I had a talk with my little man cub that evening, and straightened out everything. I also suggested he sit in the front of the bus.
As for those teenagers who taught my 6-year-old the off-color sign language, I let it go.
As life would have it, those boys are in their mid-20's now, just old enough to have young children in school. And, if they're lucky, some new and improved teenage boy is teaching their children the same salute.
Yes, indeed. The wheels on the bus go round and round, all the way to town.
(Click this link to hear your favorite song). http://youtu.be/oh99A86HraY