Once on a Bus
Life happens all around us … every single day. Most days, we don’t even see it. Occasionally we do. On rare days, we are it. Fully alive, thoroughly soaking up the sun, lever wide open.
My childhood school days started and ended with a 40-minute ride on a boxy, hardseated, bumpy yellow bus filled mostly with kids that didn’t want to be chugging down the road on their way to school. And it didn’t matter what time of year… Fall was crisp and warm with shorter days, Winter was cold and bleak and dark, Spring was mud-filled with sunshine stretching the day… every school day the bus swayed, bounced and lurched its way.
And then there was my friend. Always there. Always with a smile. Innate wisdom, kind-hearted, smart, funny. A grade behind me. We sat together every single day on that bus, talking about everything and nothing transforming long drives into spilled laughter, whispered dreams, hope.
I was one of the oddballs that wanted to go to school. I loved reading but didn’t know then that I was smart. I thought school was more about socializing and it was far better than being home.
Time passes. Life moves on. We go our separate ways. Every few years, I’d hear a snippet about him… He moved out West. He’s married. Has his own business. Has sons. Doing really well. And I would smile and make a wish that one day I could thank him for being my friend during a time that I wasn’t even my own friend. I didn’t even know I was supposed to be my own friend, and I certainly didn’t know how.
Years later, at a small funeral home during calling hours for his uncle who had passed suddenly, I see him. Confession: I went there in hopes of seeing him. And there he was, at the other end of the room.
We looked at each other, smiles completely taking over our faces, his arms shot up in a ‘There you are! Finally!’ pose. We displayed far more exuberance than manners called for in that setting. And with too many people in line between us.
Moments later, we stand embracing. Oh, how I love this person. Delight courses through us both. Others look on. It is an epic hug fest. My husband looks perplexed, shifting from one foot to the other.
We meet for coffee. Laughter and stories of our families, our travels, our work speed out of our mouths and circle around us. Once more, we are on that yellow bus.
We walk to our cars parked side-by-side. So many years have passed, and my admiration and love for this friend have only grown.
As we near the cars, I turn and say what I have wanted to say for decades now… how much I appreciate him. How thankful I am that he was my friend, how much of a positive impact he had on me, how much he means to me.
Kisses on cheeks. Smiles on faces. ‘I love you’s’ exchanged. More hugs. One final look. Delight bursting in every cell of my body.
And I know we aren’t school kids anymore. I know we are adults, spouses, parents, business people… with thousands of miles between us. And at the same time, I know that I will always, always cherish this person. This friendship. This rare day.
– Lisa Anderson