Returning from the studio the other day, I passed the same school I always do, eyes rotating around my head for anything little dashing about. School zones are such a tricky maze to master, aren't they? And with even the best intentions, I am always aware of the power I don’t possess in predicting the little ones’ next thoughts.
I did my stint as a crossing guard when I was younger. I was all of ten years old and feeling very much in control when I donned my fluorescent orange, city-issued shoulder banner. But that wasn’t what I was recalling on my way home from the studio the other day. It was about the time I almost died that was on my mind.
I liked making my friends laugh back then, usually with a whole lot of silliness involved. There was little I wouldn’t do to put a smile on their faces or have them roaring with laughter. I think it made up for the lack of it at home. But really, that has little to do with almost dying. Or maybe it does.
Bouncing about the grassy boulevard one sunny spring day, my girlfriend and I stood on the curb and waited to cross the busy 3:30 after school street. Certain it was clear, and still gesticulating about god knows what, I took a step off the curb. I felt a hand clasp firmly at the back of my shirt then. I felt the current of the speeding school bus against my nose and lips. It was like nothing I’d ever felt before or since. For a moment, my right foot was underneath the vehicle, my face less than an inch away from its side (we hadn't gone metric yet..).
I had never felt so close to death. And the girl who saved my life – she remains faceless despite my best efforts – knew it too. We gazed into each others' eyes for what felt like a long time, and without a word, we went our separate ways. It felt like the right thing to do.
On Tuesday, driving by the same school I do every time I go to and from the studio where I read books for children who can't, I was suddenly struck by the knowledge that I’d been given a second chance. That was nearly forty years ago. And here I am now wondering what to do with this second chance at life.