I watch it creep into my driveway for the first time. My daughter is five and it is the first day of kindergarten. I bend down and check her shoes. I double knot the laces. What if they come undone and she trips? Did I remember to tell the teacher she can’t tie her own shoes? My head is full with fear and worry. The bus doors open with a swish and a squeak, and we both take a step back. She looks down at my hand entwined in hers. It is the only physical contact she will tolerate. Letting go, she releases herself from my tight and sweaty grip. My daughter steps onto the short yellow school bus. She doesn’t say goodbye or turn to hug me. The bus driver offers me a reassuring smile, and I wave as my daughter takes a seat alone. She avoids my eyes, looking through me at something I will never be able to see. The bus backs up and drives away.
Drooling with envy and consumed with guilt, I stare at the mothers standing on the corner across the street. They are putting their kids on the regular sized bus, in route to the regular school and the regular education classroom. I desperately want my daughter to be normal. I don’t know this child of mine, the one I just put on the bus, the one who avoids my eyes and my touch and my heart.
This cold September morning, as I stand alone in my driveway, I realize what I have to do. I am still mourning for the little girl I never had, the normal one who can tie her own shoelaces and tell me she loves me. This child that never was, the one who rides the regular school bus with the other neighborhood kids, I have to let her go.
My daughter is 18 years old now and a senior in high school. She still can’t tie her own shoelaces. She wears slip on shoes now. I don’t have to worry about her falling down. I know she loves me, even though I can’t hear the words. I still walk her outside every morning to meet the school bus, but I am no longer envious of the mothers across the street. Those mothers are long gone. Their kids are now driving, or catching a ride with friends to school. The short bus still picks my daughter up and that is ok. She will never drive, never go off to college, and never have a family of her own.
I am still mourning for the child I never had, but mostly now just in my dreams. The daughter here, now, is the one that I love. She has taught me that letting go of what has been lost can open a door to what has always been there.
I will never live in her world and see what she sees, but I think her world is beautiful. She lets me in sometimes, and when she holds my hand as we wait for the bus I catch a glimpse of it. This child of mine, I will never let you go.