I blame the great nights sleep for what happened.
I woke, showered, applied make up, dressed, packed lunches, put the kids on the bus and made a Tim stop before I turned my van towards work. I was right on time and I was feeling fantastic. After all it’s not every day all of those things take place in the same morning.
And then it happened. I drove past the bus stop of the most adorable, dark-haired, caramel skinned eight year old girl. Grinning from ear to ear, I waved at her and she smiled back. My hand snapped back and I pulled it close to my chest.
What the hell am I doing?
I drive past this little girl every day, what’s the big deal? She looks like my daughter and she catches my eye day after day. She is an unsupervised minor child standing alone each day at a corner light pole on a busy street. I stand with my kids at their stop and scowl at anyone who passes. I refuse to let my kids stand alone at their creepy bus stop wedged between store loading docks and an abandoned auto wrecker. If someone actually waved at them, I would be forced to assume they were a stalker. Hell, I barely tolerate the current school bus driver.
What is wrong with the school board making bus stops with their map instead of their heads? What is wrong with my head? In our previous home the bus driver picked them up at the front door. However,the trade-off is that at our current home the girls can run around the neighbourhood, ringing the door bells of the neighbourhood kids. They take jaunts to the local playground and corner store without their parents if they want. These are the joys of small town living.
A waterfall of emotions and thoughts are attached to this little girl I pass each morning, Bus Stop Girl. I have issues of race, colour, childhood and mothering that are all tangled up in a mess I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to unravel. Bus Stop Girl moved into our neighbourhood weeks after I signed the agreement to sell our home. Should I have toughed it out a little longer? I notice Bus Stop Girl’s parents have listed their home for sale less than two years after moving in. I wonder if they’ve had the same sort of misgivings about this small town as I have. I wonder if things are harder when you are not attached to white parents that have been members of the community for forty years.
On the other side of town, we have another dark-skinned girl like my daughter. Her family moved in a few years ago. Should we reach out to them? Is there something we could do to make life here softer? Much as I would like my white community to colour up, I can’t go running around making pals in town on the basis of their colour. It doesn’t work like that. It sucks since my daughters have no one in their community other than each other to look to. I have had someone outright tell me that they were grateful for their child to play with mine because they knew no one else of colour. I was uncomfortable with that. It’s not the basis of a lasting relationship. Yet I would be pleased beyond words for my kids to have a friend of colour, any colour at all.
Initially, a decade ago I found the conspicuousness of my daughters thrilling. I was so pleased to be a mom and I had no wish to blend in. But years of experience as a family that stands out, has left me jaded. Each day as they grow older, I have to deal with their growing independence. They stand out even on a street corner here in this small, friendly town where I grew up, married and hoped to raise a family and it makes me anxious.
When the girls are apart from me, they enjoy the inconspicuity that comes from not having a blonde tag along. They ride the bus each morning and melt into the diversity of their large city school. Our oldest is especially pleased to have the opportunity to align herself with other Chinese children. Which is curious, and a story for another day.
Not these 725 words, or ten years of thoughts, or moving neighbourhoods, churches and friends, nor hundreds of books and tens of seminars, none of these things have unraveled the knotty, addled mess in my brain but I guess, a good nights sleep, a sunny day and a beautiful girl are enough to make me forget it.