We’ve all heard that it takes a village to raise a child. Well, this is my village. At our bus stop, at least thirty kids get on the bus every morning. Except on the rainiest days, there’s a crowd there long before necessary– the kids play, the adults chat and drink coffee. And after school, there’s a group playing for at least an hour every day. All during the school year, anytime I needed to head to a doctor’s appointment early, I knew I could drop the kids here or with a friend before they headed over. And if I thought I might be late, a quick heads up in the morning or even last minute text was enough to ensure someone would see that the kids got off the bus safely and had somewhere to go.
I don’t think I ever told the story about how they found out I had cancer. I found out on a Friday afternoon, and then had appointments Tuesday and Wednesday. Tuesday I dropped them early with a friend, and then Wednesday, Clay was going with me to the oncologist, so we both walked the kids to the bus stop. One friend was just ahead of us, still wearing her running gear. I remember telling Clay that her littlest must have gotten up early, so she’d have to go for her morning run later, with the stroller. It’s amazing how much you can know about a person and what’s going on in their life when you see them twice every single day– just her outfit told me lots. Not remarkably, she could tell that something must be up with me, too– I was dressed, made up, in heels and ready to go for the third day in a row and Clay was with me (maybe only the second or third time he’d ever been there in the morning). She asked if everything was ok, and I must have nodded and mumbled something about a doctor’s appointment and I’d tell her all about it later. Only that afternoon, I was late to the bus and everybody cleared out early for various after school activities, so I didn’t see her. We told the kids I had cancer that night, and the next morning, I had a very early appointment with a plastic surgeon, so Clay had to take them to the bus stop again, only this time, solo.
Clay got to the bus stop with the kids, and a big group of moms was chatting, as usual. Turner ran up to the middle of the group ahead of Clay and announced quite loudly, “My mommy has cancer!” And then he ran off to play with his friends. And then, crickets. Clay said all the talking. just. stopped. It still makes me giggle to think of how that must have looked. Thankfully, we’d been camping with two bus stop families a couple of weeks before, so at least two moms knew Clay well enough to approach him and talk to him, most of the gaggle of moms only knew me.
And before I’d even had a chance to chat and hear how it all went from Clay (honestly, I laughed– such a funny scene in my mind!), I had texts from at least two friends. Simple words, but thoughtful and so kind. In your thirties and early forties, I think it’s kind of hard to know how to react to something like a friend with a potentially terminal disease. But my village, they did it perfectly. Lots of hugs and promises of support. They offered help, but were so gracious not to smother me. These families fought over the opportunity to meet any need I even mentioned, and they bragged when they managed to secure a spot to bring us dinner! They watched my kids, they cooked us meals, they learned more about cancer and reconstructive surgery than any woman our age should ever have to know. They celebrated with me.
Now that it’s summer, we don’t have that daily connection. I miss my village. But even with no bus to catch, we’ll still be spending some time at the bus stop. It was never really about the bus, anyway.