The girls generally ride the bus home from school.
They get home at about 4:00, maybe a little earlier.
Not so long ago, I stood with my afternoon cup of coffee and stared out the large front bay window into our neighborhood. The sky had that weird greenish cast I associate with tornadoes, except there are few tornadoes here in Oregon. The air was heavy and still and anticipatory . . . something was coming.
Maybe 3:30 or so. I sat in the window and watched the sky and breathed the charged air and sipped my coffee and waited for the school bus.
Waited for whatever was coming to arrive.
I didn’t have to wait long.
A flash of lightning ripped across the greenish sky.
And then a series of bolts that happened outside of my view, but which illuminated sections of the suddenly darkened sky.
Hail began to fall.
So much hail that the houses across the street were obscured from my view.
More lightning, which lit the hail.
I gazed through the window into a surreal violent snowglobe.
From Kallan: Mommy, it’s hailing! Look outside!
And then from Maj: Did you see the lightning?
I answered them both as the hail pelted the world and the sky flashed and dulled: I know! Very cool! Such weird weather!
From Kallan: The bus driver is driving really slow.
And then from Maj: I told Kallan the bus driver is going slow to be safe.
I texted back: Good. I’m glad she’s being careful.
Another bolt of lightning ripped apart the sky.
From Kallan: What are we having for dinner?
From Maj: Are the dogs scared?
I texted Kallan that we were having spaghetti, and I texted Maj that the dogs were hiding in the basement.
And then I carried on a three-sided text conversation with the two of them for the duration of the school bus ride home. About plans for the weekend and where Kallan’s sweater might be and when Maj’s library books were due.
A note here . . .
Maj and Kallan rarely text me.
They certainly don’t text me from the school bus.
Both girls texting me at the same time from the school bus? In front of their friends? The hail and lightning must have freaked them out a bit.
My heart swelled at the thought of them, nervous and upset, both reaching out for me.
I texted them both: You almost home?
Maj answered: Yes. And the hail is stopping!
The big yellow-orange bus rolled up the street.
There were my daughters, excited and happy and scooping up handfuls of hail as they made their way to the house.
The moment had passed.
Neither of them mentioned the texting, and so I didn’t either.
I just held that moment close . . . my two big girls scared by lightning and hail, checking in for reassurance from Mom as they rode the bus home through the storm.
And then weeks later, there is this . . .
Kallan stares out the window at the sky, “You think it’s going to hail, Mom?”
Maj looks up from her book, “Remember that one day on the bus, Kallan?”
Kallan turns solemn, “That day everyone was screaming that we were going to die?”
Wait . . . what?
I listen as Maj and Kallan tell me the story.
A story of the sky in front of the bus being rent by lightning. Of the screaming of children who feared the lightning would hit the bus. Of the boy who screamed that they were all going to die. Of the other children who took up the terrified wailing chant. Of the bus driver’s angry voice informing them that the bus had rubber tires that would protect them from lightning. Of the screaming that ensued as the children took her words to be a statement that lightning was indeed going to hit the bus. Of the demands for quiet. Of the bus driver yelling that no one was going to die . . . and of how her words were lost in the sudden pounding sound of hail on the metal rooftop. Of the flashes of light. Of the bus driver slowing to a crawl as the road filled with ice and the world disappeared and the hail beat upon the roof. Of the bus driver screaming at everyone to be quiet. Of the boy who picked up his phone and called his parents (or claimed to call his parents), leaving a hysterical message that he was going to die.
Of how the girls weren’t sure how much of the panic was real and how much was drama for the sake of drama.
So they texted me.
Tucked down into their seat together, they texted me.
Texted me against the backdrop of screams and terror and the pounding of hail and the flashing of lightning and the demands for silence and the threats of death.
I looked back at our texts today as I prepared to write this post.
Words of sweaters and dinner plans and library books.
I am always struck by the limits of words.
How their meaning can be hidden.
In the white spaces between.