Yesterday was Edward’s last first day of pre-school. We had gone in on Monday for the orientation meeting, but school didn’t officially start for him until Tuesday. Tuesday meant a new first day of school outfit, it meant a full morning away, and it meant the most favorite and best part of all of school, taking the bus.
I set my alarm and got up early, showering and getting dressed so I would be ready with my camera for his big day. He was beyond excited, wearing the Big Hero 6 shirt that he had picked out at the store for his first full day back. He had his medicine, his breakfast, and his Jake and the Neverland Pirates time, so we were almost ready to go. Jake ended at 8:30 and the bus was scheduled to come at 8:40, so I told him ten more minutes, but he was chomping at the bit to go outside and wait. I was getting excited too, and I ran upstairs to use the bathroom before we had to go stand at the curb.
When I came out of the bathroom I called downstairs, “Okay Buddy, let’s get ready to go!” but I got no answer. I walked down and found the house deserted. I looked in the kitchen, but there was nobody there, so I figured they had gone outside to wait, due to extreme excitement. When I got out there, I found no one. No Edward. No wife. No puppy. Just emptiness. I ran to the curb and looked up and down the street, but there were no humans in sight. I ran back into the courtyard, thinking maybe he had gone over to the play structure, but he had not. Since he has a neighbor going to preschool with him this year, I even went over to their doorway to see if everyone was waiting together out of sight, but again I found nothing.
Just as I was about to accept that the rapture had happened and I had been left behind, my wife came walking around from the back of the building with the puppy, who had needed a little walk. “What’s going on?!” I called out. “Where is everyone?!”
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” she said. “You missed it. The bus came 8 minutes early. It’s lucky that he came out so soon to wait, because as soon as he got out here the bus pulled up and I didn’t have time to come in and get you.”
And just like that, he was gone. He was at school and I had not even said goodbye. I did not get a picture of him in his first day of school outfit. I did not get a picture of him getting on the bus. I did not give him a hug. I did not tell him good luck, or have a good day, or I love you. I had put my own selfish bathroom needs over the emotional needs of my son. As I drove my wife to work I felt the tears welling up in my eyes and I despaired.
My wife noticed that I was in distress and she gave me a reassuring pat, but I was still miserable. She went off to work and I headed to my 10 am meeting at church. Except that I didn’t. I realized that there was only one way to make up for this. I needed to drive to his school and take a picture of him getting off of the bus. I swerved left instead of straight and took off in a mad dash to beat the school bus to my son’s school so I could be a good parent.
As I approached the school I was hit by a wave of traffic unlike any traffic I had ever seen in this area before. There was a flagger on the road right outside of his school, backing up traffic for blocks and blocks in all directions. Whoever thought that doing construction at a major intersection right next to the university and the hospital during rush hour on a Tuesday morning ought to be fired. I’m just saying. I sat there in increasing agony, wondering if I would even make the bus, much less my meeting. But of course the bus was stuck in the traffic too, so finally the fates were on my side.
I stood there in front of the school, proudly holding my camera up as the bus pulled in. He got off of the bus and my heart swelled with joy and catharsis as I fulfilled my parenting duty of taking his picture, nevermind the fact that my wife had already taken plenty of pictures of him earlier. He smiled for a moment as he saw me, and I ran over and gave him the biggest hug I possibly could, at which point he pulled away, gave me a distressed look, and said “Daddy, I didn’t want you to come to my school! Go home!”
I smiled broadly and said, “Yup, I’m leaving!” He gave me one last scowl and then linked elbows with his friends and teachers and walked into the building to begin his father-free day. And that was all I needed to see.