It’s funny how sure adults were of what would and wouldn’t kill you. “It wouldn’t kill you to clean your room.” “It wouldn’t kill you to do your homework.” And it turns out they were right. So far.
There was an early and late bus that took students home from school. The early bus took the kids up to the sixth grade. Brought them home, then returned to the junior and senior high schools and made the same route.
I rode the early bus. My brother and sister, if they rode at all, having friends with cars, came later. One day, feeling particularly alone — alone with the knowledge that I was assigned my first book report — I decided not to get off the bus. My plan was to ride back with the bus driver to the high school and wait for the older students, hoping my brother and sister would come along and help me carry this new burden of schoolwork. The bus driver stared at me. I could see he wasn’t thrilled with my plan. We sat outside the high school. Waited. And waited. Nervous sweat collected between my thighs and the green pleather seat. Neither my brother, nor my sister came. No one came. Not one student. All the other buses left. I smiled nervously as he stared at me in the rear view mirror. Would he still bring me home? What had I done? My plan not only left me alone, but I wasn’t even at home. I didn’t speak. I clutched my notebooks to my chest. I didn’t know if he could see my lips moving, as they pleaded silently, “Please please please bring me home.” He started the engine. My heart beat once again. He drove from the high school to Big Ole – the giant Viking Statue one mile from our house. He pulled the giant silver handle that opened the door. “It wouldn’t kill you to walk from here,” he said. I stared only at my feet as I raced out the door.
“Wouldn’t kill you… wouldn’t kill you…” The words repeated in my head as I kicked the dirt down the gravel road. What did he know? And wasn’t there anything in between? Nothing between this fear and death? These were my only options?
Step by step I got closer to home. I walked past the geese. Up the hill. Past Vacek’s. Lee’s. The Lee kids had gotten off the bus. Lucky ducks. I heard dishes clanking through windows. Voices talking on telephones, as the long phone cords were stretched through screen doors onto the front steps. I wasn’t alone. The sounds of life on VanDyke road carried me to the green house. Through the garage. Into the living room. I opened the encyclopedia that began with the letter of my project. And began. Stronger.
Maybe this is where I learned to trust my own feet. Began to believe they would carry me where I needed to go. They have. Rocks in shoes have been as much gifts as well lit paths. And I am strong.
Today, listen for the sweet sounds to carry you. Trust in each step. Look around. This is our long, and beautiful, constant journey home.