Every morning, as my commute to work, I hop on the 96 bus and ride it all the way to the Tufts campus. I’m always surrounded by the same cast of characters – the nicely dressed man who sits in the back and reads the newspaper, the friendly woman who works in mail services at Tufts, the guy at the front who carries a Walkman (yes, a Walkman) and bobs his head around to whatever he’s listening to - they are my little bus family.
Yesterday I got on the bus just like any other day, though I was a little more wired than my usual 8am self. It was matriculation day at Tufts and I was especially excited to get to campus. Matriculation day is the day that my colleagues and I get to see the entire class arrive and finally join the Jumbo family, and it is absolutely my favorite day of work. So I was riding the bus with an extra-big smile on my face when we got to Davis Square. This is the part of my route when a whole host of people join us, and the bus becomes a little crowded. Yesterday, along with the many usual commuters hopping on in Davis Square, I spotted a family of four.
The oldest son of the family was carrying two large duffel bags. He was with his parents and his younger sister. She was carrying an instrument which was far too large for her and clearly belonged to her brother. The bus had filled up, so the family set up camp near the front: parents and sister sitting, oldest son standing and facing forward. As he stood there, one duffel bag on each side of him, everyone on the bus began to realize what was going on. You could see the smiles start to spread on our faces as we exchanged excited glances and secretly stared at this poor boy, who was now the center of attention and the new topic of 96 gossip.
There’s this moment on the 96 bus route when the driver rounds a rotary and Tufts comes into view. As we come around the bend, we can see the football field in front of us, the chapel beyond it up on the hill, and the sign at the corner announcing that we are, in fact, at Tufts University. I sat in the back of the bus and watched as this boy stood, looking out the front at his new home, and I swear I almost cried. His parents were sitting and smiling at each other as he had his moment alone to just look. At one point, he turned to his dad and pointed something out – the track, maybe, or the arts building – and his dad nodded and smiled and looked on with him. The woman sitting next to his mother leaned in slightly and asked, “Are you dropping your son off at college today?” His mother nodded, and the woman simply smiled, said “congratulations” and leaned back into her seat. When they all got off the bus together on Boston Avenue, the whole bus finally exploded with oh my goodness’s and that was so sweet’s.
There are parts of matriculation day that are very sad, but it’s the kind of sad that also makes you happy, if that makes any sense at all. I love watching students awkwardly make their first friends, walk around campus tentatively with their parents, finally say goodbye, and start the next four years of their lives… it’s touching. Walking around Davis Square on the evening of matriculation day, I’ll see a few parents picking a restaurant, just the two of them, and there’s something about it that always makes me proud of them. But yesterday, my morning bus ride took the cake for the most poignant moment of the day. It was beautiful to see my daily commute transformed into a really special moment in one family’s history. What a nice thing to witness.