A few months into her fifteenth year, she boards a Greyhound bus for the first time. Carries an oversized stuffed brown bear and small suitcase up the steps, down the narrow aisle. Eyes ping pong back to front, side to side, assessing open seats without making contact with strangers. Looks out the window at the crowd below, the ones that kiss each other, hug goodbye. She sits alone in her thoughts. About what she leaves behind and the unknown of what lies ahead.
The bear, a gift from friends at her going away party the night before, it sits in the aisle seat next to her like a bodyguard from heaven, warding off the odd and strange. Peculiar how it makes her feel safe sitting there.
But really, she has been talking to masses of stuffed animals as long as she can remember. They listen to her prayers in the dark night; give comfort when the pain and loneliness get to be too much. Offer their furry ears to wipe tears that sting hot on the face.
On this day, pressed up against cold glass, she holds herself tight in fear. Misses her friends, the surrogate family members. Worries if she will have friends at the new school. Thinks about her cheerleading uniform, the white bedroom furniture that she leaves at her friend’s house, the one she lives with for months after her mother decides to move away.
Wishes she could stay behind with friends to finish high school. Because she loves her mother, just not what the alcohol does . . to both of them.
This bus takes her to a city, in another state. To the home of a beloved aunt that said, “she can live with me.” And all this newness, it feels like sitting in a prison cell wrapped tight in rope and hopeful all at the same time.
Because she doesn’t know how to move, live free but she trusts in God. He is all she has. Knows this bus travels to those foreign places called love and security, but there is no framework for this kind of change. No one holding her hand, explaining how this works, telling her it’s going to be okay.
Years later, she marries a man who loves the way she dreams of and she becomes the kind of parent she wishes she had herself. And when she experiences something new, change with no framework, her back tenses and she can’t move.
Because the body remembers, what the mind forgets.
And this is healing grace, this revelation. Because now, when the new comes and the body remembers it is like a sacred echo in an evergreen canyon reminding, “You don’t have to be afraid because I am with you. I was there on the bus, I am there with you now.”