Powerful echoes of a simple sound at 6:50 a.m.

The 6:50 a.m. school bus ... squeaky brakes and all.

The 6:50 a.m. school bus … squeaky brakes and all.

Weekday mornings, if I’m in the kitchen with my coffee at the right time, I’ll hear a familiar sound coming from the stop sign at the corner. And an entire era of my life replays in my head.

It’s the sound of squeaky brakes on a school bus. If I time it right, I can either look out the window to see the bus, or see its flashing lights dance off my living room walls. Sometimes I just hear the brakes, and then it’s gone.

For several years, that sound meant one of three things — my sons were at the corner en route to high school; they missed the bus because they were still getting ready in a sleepy fog and would need a ride; or they were at their mom’s house, meaning my house was empty and quiet.

Emptiness. The nest has been officially empty for a few years now, my three boys now young men on their own, following their bliss, doing well and doing good.

Their absence, and the quiet that accompanies it, are the norm except at holidays or occasional visits. I miss having them around, and the times we are together are usually festive and occasionally raucous. I am often not the most responsible adult in the room.

I don’t consciously await the 6:50 a.m. school bus any more. So the mornings I do hear it, the sound grabs me and takes me back.

It’s comforting, yet there’s a twinge of sadness. That’s not unusual, I suppose, when parents see, hear or feel something that recalls the blur of diapers, day care, play dates, lunch-making, teachers’ conferences, practices and games, concerts, girlfriends, cars, jobs, parties . . .

With my boys gone, every time I encounter a mom or dad with a little one, I tell them, almost evangelically: “Yes, it’s a cliche, but it’s true! Enjoy them while you can! Hang onto them for dear life — it’s over before you know it, and they’re gone!”

And on and on. The polite ones smile, then go back to their screaming toddler who is tired, wet, hungry or just wants to be anywhere else at that moment.

Yes, it’s all true. Everything the books say, everything the “experts”  tell you, it’s all true. It’s there, and it’s gone. Enjoy — better yet, appreciate — being a parent. Some of it is brutal, honestly, and you give up a lot of yourself to do it right.

And then, one morning . . . you wake up in the dark, put on the coffee and hear a school bus at the corner.


About Jim McKeever

Writer, father, runner, advocate based in Central New York.
This entry was posted in family, Irish Investigations and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Powerful echoes of a simple sound at 6:50 a.m.

  1. Aww, Love this post Jim, thanks for sharing it! ❤
    Diana xo


  2. markbialczak says:

    That’s why they become cliches and stereotypes, the truths they do hold, my friend. You are right to spread that word.

    This post is a treasure, by the way. It could fit Photo 101 today, easily.

    Your best line is about the actions of your grown three sons, out there “following their bliss, doing well and doing good.” Like their dad. Bravo.


  3. lundygirl says:

    When my son was about a week old a friend, who has three grown up daughters, said ‘it goes so fast. It’s over before you know it’. That was fifteen years ago and he was right; and you are right. It does go fast – and I for one am trying to treasure it as much as I can.


  4. Mary Kane says:

    Well you did it again Jimmy. My throat closed up and the tears started flowing. The din of the quiet at my home right now is deafening… I, too, enjoyed my coffee to the sound of “squeaky brakes ” just this morning – alongwith the sound of the fridge running softly in the background….
    All those wonderful noisey memories !!
    (Insert heavy sigh here…)


  5. Amen Jim. Those moments hit me frequently. When I see my kids with THEIR kids doing what I ‘used’ to do….. It gets us for sure.


  6. Beautiful, nostalgic. Your story does take me back. And, you’re right, parents should enjoy their children while they can. That’s why grandchildren are so loved. They bring back many happy memories. 😉


  7. chmjr2 says:

    Everything in your blog today spoke to me. The memories came flooding back to me. I wish I could go back just for one day so I could pick them up and hug them. I see them very often today, but I never realized how much I would miss those younger years. Oh I knew I would miss it, but not how much.


    • Jim McKeever says:

      Thanks, Charles … It’s incredible, isn’t it? Every time I see a baby, I can’t help but smile at him or her. And they usually return the favor. There’s nothing like it…


  8. reocochran says:

    This captured the melancholy I have felt from time to time. Not sad, just a little bit missing the busy-ness of family and life with three children, too. I have plenty of ‘tales’ of grandchildren, also my own children chose two of three who live here, to have kids so I have them to keep me busy. But sometimes, for me, it is opening the door into my apartment, no lights on, that brings ‘it all home to me.’ I like that you remind people to enjoy them while they can, Jim. Good words of advice and you show your wisdom in this post.


    • Jim McKeever says:

      Thank you, Robin … Sometimes it hits you when you least expect it, and as you know it’s powerful as can be. There’s a wonderful song by John McCutcheon, “The Room at the Top of the Stairs,” that is incredibly powerful and relevant here. It’s on YouTube somewhere, and well worth a listen. But be careful with it…

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I am also guilty of spouting that cliche, I’m afraid. Now I’m saying it about my grandkids. They grow up incredibly fast these days!


  10. Don says:

    Wonderful post Jim. I have two grown up sons and I can relate well to what you say. 🙂


  11. cat9984 says:

    And one day the boys will get married and have children. I’m pretty sure my mother enjoyed watching my kids grow up more than my brother and me. Less work, more spoiling. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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