The place of silent rituals in our daily lives:
Her backpack is too heavy and keeps sliding down off her shoulders.
It’s nearly the length of her entire body, or it seems this way as I perch it on her each morning.
We stand at the edge of our stone driveway, waiting for the bus. She doesn’t need to ride the bus, but wants to, and so I let her.
She takes my hand in her small, warm palm and swings my arm—silently asking me to sing our usual medley.
I didn’t even know how well she actually knew the words to many of the songs that we listen to in the car, until we started this new-yet-already-familiar routine.
Each morning, she takes our joined hands and dances her tiny body around me. Often, the baby is in the carrier, strapped to my chest, with her little feet thumping against the creases of my hips, where her legs dangle, as she also animatedly moves herself to the rhythm of our singing voices.
We make our arms go in circles for “Wheels On The Bus.” We pretend hammer for “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.” We sing other songs, too—like those from our car rides to the grocery store and to get water for our small, country home. Trucks and vans and sports cars whirl by on our winding, pretty road, near the edge of our stone driveway, where we wait.
This morning, the leaves were distinctively yellowing; fall perching precariously on their branches, much like her big backpack on narrow shoulders.
The air was damp and the dirt between the stones was wet. Mist fell ever so slightly, but she asked me to get an umbrella.
We danced underneath a large golf umbrella that I’ve had since walking from my apartment to classes in college. Over our heads, white and maroon add additional color to the golden leaves of the trees.
It’s not really raining enough for an umbrella, but the baby is delighted by the maroon and white triangles above her, as I swirl it and sing along with her big sister. Her dancing feet kick my lower abdomen so hard that it almost hurts; she squeals happily as her sister sings.
Cars zoom by, and we stay back from the road. People are rushing to work and our road, being pretty, attracts drivers in general, as it parallels a much busier one.
Some notice our little spectacle; our private showcase of songs and dancing and hand gestures. My daughter doesn’t notice them at all, however, and I don’t care—so engrossed are we in our morning ritual.
The bus was hard for me to get used to—truthfully, I’m still not used to seeing my five-year-old get on it.
I so look forward to this pre-bus time, though, and I know both she and her baby sister do too—especially because the two times so far this dawning autumn, when it was too cold to take the baby out, and I left her inside with my husband as he got ready for work, she cried and whimpered at our front door.
These little routines of our personal lives—the kinds that are normal to us, but special in that not everyone’s life goes precisely this way—are healthy; making us able to properly invite crisp, new daily details around smudged, muted normalcy.
My sister visited this weekend and outwardly observed that I like to do things a particular way. I shrugged my shoulders and silently agreed because, really, why shouldn’t I?
Routine, especially for small children, is important.
In the mornings, it makes the day go more smoothly—more effectively—and, for kids primarily, these little things that stay the same help when life creates bigger changes—like baby sisters and new school buses.
The bus comes up from behind a yellowing tree, and its gold flashing lights begin to flicker. Typically, my daughter jumps up and down ecstatically when she sees it, but this morning its appearance seems to have also taken her by surprise—neither of us are ready to stop singing and dancing in this morning’s foggy drizzle.
I smile a little too boldly and guide her further up the stone driveway, to the waiting bus. It’s filled with kids she knows, and a driver and an assistant—in short, it’s a waiting world of something familiar to her that would be completely foreign to me or to anyone else.
She buckles into her reserved seat and waves good-bye, and the baby and I walk back up the wet stone to the front porch. I pause and gently squeeze the baby’s feet and nuzzle the top of her head with my chin and lips.
I go inside to perform more of my morning rituals, like making another cup of coffee, kissing my husband as he heads out the back door, and putting the baby down for a nap.
I’m not sure what the rest of our day will look like—I hadn’t expected rain this morning—but I know that I’m ready—thanks to cloudy day singing, patiently coloring leaves, and the waiting smile of my daughter as she’ll climb back down the bus’s steps, and into my ever-open arms.