Nothing bad happened to us this fall.

Except that one day when I took Brooks down to his little yellow school bus and then got to work, I got a breaking news message on my phone that there was a fire in midtown. And because I am too neurotic  to ignore these digital intrusions, a quick search on Twitter confirmed the story. It was near Macy’s and there were flame-filled pictures (thank you, Twitter). Apparently, what was on fire was a school bus. A little one, just like the one Brooks rides.

Even the initial reports said there were no injuries and that the bus was empty, but that didn’t stop my  heart rate from quickening. His school was too close and so was the timing.

A swift phone call to his school revealed that all the buses were there safely. Of course.

I could now exhale and return to my more routine Brooks-related worries. When I was helping him with homework recently, although he was able to read to me beautifully, he was completely lost when I asked him how many sentences he had just read. Although my husband and I have come to accept that academics will always be hard for Brooks, it is still shocking to us that he has trouble with such a simple concept.

But what is new this year is that with enough patience, we’re able to help him find a path to the answer. Breaking it down into questions like “What do sentences end with?” and then “So how many periods are there in what you just read?” really help him figure it out. We’re also noticing that Brooks will now take the time he needs to think about what he’s being asked, and we understand that all this progress is largely due to his smaller and gentler new school.

Of course, I’d be lying if I said we didn’t have long-term concerns about his college prospects, or for that matter his likelihood of finding a partner in life given his horrendous table manners and his intense preoccupation with NFL football stats on any given Sunday, Monday or any other day of the week.

These are not baseless worries, but they certainly lost their steam on that “school bus” morning—during that tiny moment of panic that was there and then gone. And so I am thankful for it. But I am also haunted by it because I am intimately familiar with the power of tiny moments. My son’s autism diagnosis and 9/11 were two that radically changed the course of lives—mine and others—and they too were unexpected and started out like any other day.

But this one passed. And so this year, as Brooks lights the Chanukah candles, I will be reminded of how our fragile and beautiful our lives are. Happy holidays.


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