Who knew that only a few minutes after I wrote my silly post yesterday about my wonderful children, that within a few minutes their lives would be ever-so-slightly altered.
While my afternoon kindergartener slept soundly in his bed, his three older siblings were waiting by the road for the school bus. As is common for them, they smile and wave at whoever smiles and waves at them. Traffic is pretty heavy on school mornings. It mostly consists of tired out parents bringing their kids into town from miles down the road. Millworkers driving their bruised pickup trucks to the mill. Educators and staff commuting to work at Oregon State University in nice SUV's or shiny little hybrids. Wrinkled up old dump truck drivers with wrinkled up old dump trucks from the gravel company chugging along. And bicyclists. Lots of them.
The area in which we live is a bike riders paradise. The surrounding hills have beautiful and peaceful views. Mountains, rivers and lush farming countryside sqeeze up against the curved roads. The hilly terrain is "most excellent" for training to ride in bicycling events and races. This attracts all sorts of people. From the young college student, who's passion is getting on a bike and riding around to see the world, to the serious triathlete training with his buddies on a Sunday morning. They all ride by at some point.
Yesterday was no exception. I sent my kids off to wait for the bus as they usually do. Excitement was high as my son was going on a field trip to the coast that day. The kids didn't even pay attention to my obviously bleary mood. The aquarium is one of my son's favorite places, so of course he left the house in a big hurry. I shut the door, took a deep breath and went to snuggle into my recliner to get over the nagging feeling I had that I was going to have a bad day.
A few minutes passed, and my school bus radar hadn't even gone off yet, when the back door opened again. I jumped up, knowing that if I hadn't heard the school bus stop, that someone was about to miss getting on it because they were coming in the back door instead. It was my son, breathless. He had forgotten his lunch. I hastily grabbed the paper bag off the counter, yanked his backpack open and stuffed it in there as delicately as I could. Zipped up and ready to go he took off out the door again like a bullet. For some uncharacteristic reason, he screeched to a stop just outside the door, turned around, pushed the door open wide and gave me a huge hug. I'm not sure what that was all about, as we'd just had a pretty bad morning, but maybe he needed it. I know I sure did.
I watched him out the window for a moment, to make sure he got back to the bus stop. I was in a big hurry to sit back down. I was not feeling good. And, I did not notice his sisters staring off down the road towards the north. They usually watch for the bus to arrive, and it comes from the south.
A minute later, I heard the brakes on the school bus give a sigh, then I listened, as I always do for loud noises or anything unusual. Then, I heard the engine rev up, and knew they were safely tucked away in their seats, but I did not know that the new images and thoughts being permanently imbedded into their minds were the farthest thing from being safe at that moment.
All through the morning I heard sounds. Unfamiliar sounds. I couldn't place them, but I didn't feel like moving. The pain relievers were kicking in and I didn't want to think about anything. I don't like being home alone. Sounds bother me and I needed some noise. Luckily my 5 year old heard my silent pleas and he got out of bed. A couple times I looked out towards the north end of the road, and noticed that the Sheriff department had a vehicle posted at the end of the crossroad that is across from our field. There were orange cones, apparently blocking traffic from turning. No worries, if I had to go to town I'd just go around. I wonder what happened? I noticed the guy in the full body yellow rain slicker walking around. I bet someone slid off the road and they are trying to get his vehicle out of the ditch. The roads looked wet, and it gets slippery sometimes.
Now typically, I'm one of those types of people that are referred to as an "ambulance chaser". I don't actually chase ambulances, but I'm always very curious about what's happening, who's involved and where those emergency vehicles are going off to. I will see flashing lights while I'm out driving and will choose to go that direction just to see what's going on. I briefly thought about walking over to the intersection to get a better look. No, I thought, that would be nosy of me. Plus, I don't even feel like walking that far today and it's just a sheriff's truck. There was no ambulance. No fire truck. No tow truck either, I reasoned against myself, as my brow furrowed into worry lines. Well then I'll just go out to the shop, and flip on the scanner. My father-in-law was the fire chief back in the day, and his old emergency scanner is still out there. Sometimes when the police whiz by on a call, I'll turn it on to eavesdrop. But not this time. It didn't look like there was any flurry of activity, and I had no energy to stand outside and listen in today.
I sunk back into my chair, content to snuggle with my son and our new copy of Skippy John Jones and hope someone would make us something to eat.
Shortly before noon, I started feeling good enough to dress myself, feed my son and get him out the door for kindergarten. We waited for his school bus. And waited. We smiled at all the people who drove by. We waved back at whoever waved at us. We talked about why it's not safe to be facing the road with your eyes wide open when the big log trucks barrel past in the rain and fling mud and rocks from their tires. I briefly considered hooking him up with safety goggles. Sheesh, who was I kidding? You can't keep them safe from everything! We did some dancing. We twirled around and got the giggles. We talked about not waving at little old ladies, because it causes them to drive off the side of the road right towards us (this really happened once). We kicked rocks back towards the driveway. Eventually, with only three minutes left until the noon hour, I went back inside to get my keys to drive him to school. It was really annoying how unreliable his bus was. It bugged me. The other thing that bugged me was that I noticed the road was normal. There were no extra vehicles parked down by the cross street anymore, no orange cones. Good, I thought to myself, I can get him straight to his school without going the long way around. Where the heck is the bus?
As I drove down that same cross street towards the primary school, I looked for small details on the road that showed something had recently happened. Were there marks where someone went off the road? Trees or shrubbery out of place? Not that I could tell. The road looked scuffed up, but other than that it appeared mostly normal. I swung into the school parking lot, and since we were late I reasoned with my son that he could walk himself to the door. He had pretty much refused that offer previously, but today he didn't argue. So I swung the Suburban around the driveway and let him out at the curb where he scampered off towards the door of his modern looking school building. I noticed a few parents in a huddle, talking about who knows what. I momentarily wished I'd walked him inside, I liked talking to the other parents. We found out things that way. We encouraged each other. But today, I was ready to get right back home.
I took a detour getting home. I talked to no one. I usually stop somewhere and chat about the weather or school or newsy stuff, but today was different. I was craving the quiet. But I also hated it. So I made a last second decision to pick up a movie and let it fill the next couple hours with mindless noise. It worked. And, I still didn't have to talk to anyone. Thank goodness for Redbox.
Later in the afternoon, I received a phone call from a friend. It was a welcome break from my self-imposed silence. We chatted for awhile, and then an abrupt knock came at the door. "I gotta go," I said, "someone's at the door." And they mean business! I thought to myself.
I was not pleased with myself. WHY hadn't I taken more time to make myself presentable? I opened the door, with my frazzled looking hair, sporting my farmer jeans and a t-shirt that says FINALLY FREE! I had planned on cleaning house sometime today, not hosting company. I was embarassed, but still I knew I couldn't avoid this pair of visitors. One was a shorter man, with nice red hair and a smiling, but sincere look on his face. The other darker haired man avoided my eye but carried a HUGE camera that I instantly became envious of.
To be continued... Part 2