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The Wheels On The Bus

Walking down the brick sidewalk, my black boots crunching over dried, yellow leaves, I spot a young mother and her toddler walking toward me. The dark-haired little girl, wearing a quilted, navy blue jacket and pink tutu, grasps her mother’s hand, slightly swinging as they stroll by. I catch the mother’s eye, nodding hello. The little girl is singing a familiar tune that catches me off guard, taking me back 15 years.

“The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round...”

I don’t know why the song resonates so much, but I want to start singing. The thing is, when my children were growing up singing that song, I didn’t even like it. It drove me nuts.

“And the horn on the bus goes beep, beep, beep.”

“And the wipers on the bus go swish, swish, swish.”

God, will this song ever end? That’s what I probably thought while Peyton sat on my lap during circle time, patting her pudgy hands to the beat of the bus song.

Now, I turn my head and watch the mother and daughter walk out of sight, the little singsongy voice growing fainter as it “beep, beep, beeps” down the sidewalk.

Maybe it’s a hormonal shift or the shift in seasons, but I suddenly want to cry. And so I do. Hard. Luckily, I make it to the car before the waterworks start pouring in earnest. Does that mother know how lucky she is? Does she know how quickly this moment will pass? Does she appreciate the simplicity of walking hand in hand on a crisp fall day?

Did I appreciate it at the time?

I often feel the weight of nostalgia--or is it melancholy?-- when the seasons change. But this year, even more so. The sight of this mother and child singing seems like a wake-up call, a reminder. Pay attention. Appreciate the moment when you’re in it. It doesn’t last long.

Older parents often tell younger parents this. I’ve written past essays on the topic: "Taking Off" and "Children and the Corn." But I’m really feeling it now, with Peyton in the throes of applying to colleges. Eighteen years ago, she was still in my belly, beefing up for a December debut. Now she’s gearing up for another journey.

Yes, the wheels on the bus go round and round, faster than ever. And while we can’t always control the speed--or bumps along the way--we keep on moving.