Riding the Bus with My Sister

Riding the Bus with My Sister

by

Rachel Simon

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Riding the Bus with My Sister: 30. October: Come Home, Little Girl Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In Rachel’s senior year of college, she finally goes to a therapist, explains that she lives in a constant state of panic and anxiety, and tells the story of her family. The therapist tells her that she should contact her mother if she wants to improve. She feels like she can’t, but the therapist says that she should just write down her mother’s work number, so that she can call when she’s ready. Rachel angrily walks out, but a few months later, she finds the number.
Rachel’s therapy appointment shows how her fractured relationships with her parents have psychologically affected her for a very long time. In particular, they are the root of her struggle with relationships and fear of intimacy. Her resistance to the therapist’s recommendation reveals this fear: because Rachel’s mother hurt her by withdrawing, Rachel believes that reconnecting with her mother would amount to forgiving someone who does not deserve forgiveness, and then open her up to being hurt again.
Themes
Love and Family Theme Icon
Later, at her first job, Rachel sees a newspaper ad for an Osmonds concert and decides to take Beth. At the concert, Beth is delighted and sings along to every song, while Rachel notices how the whole Osmond family performs together in harmony. Meanwhile, the family dog Ringo is getting older. One day, he starts coughing up blood and dies.
Rachel and Beth’s life goes on without their mother. Rachel again takes on a maternal role in her relationship with Beth, taking over responsibility for Beth’s happiness and well-being. Of course, she continues to act on this same instinct when she visits Beth on the buses in adulthood, but her year of visits eventually enables her to put this instinct behind her.
Themes
Love and Family Theme Icon
Rachel returns to her dreadful job as a paralegal. She feels depressed, creatively stunted, and paralyzed with fear. She also keeps thinking about her mother, remembering how she played games with the kids, taught them to write, and kissed them good night. Rachel wonders if her hatred for her mother has faded. After a major legal case, Rachel realizes that it’s time to call her mother. She pulls out the phone number for the library where her mother works, calls, and asks for the reference desk. Her mother picks up. When Rachel identifies herself, her mother starts crying and says, “Thank God!” She also asks to meet.
It’s telling that Rachel finally decides to contact her mother when other elements of her life start to go poorly. In particular, her draining job helps her understand that people often make bad decisions because of their life circumstances, and not because of malice. This realization helps her empathize with her mother, whom she suspects abandoned her children for this same reason. As a result, Rachel finally decides to address her interpersonal conflicts by embracing others, not withdrawing from them. And just like her date with Rick, her conversation with her mother is a success.
Themes
Love and Family Theme Icon
Growth, Change, and Morality Theme Icon
During the following year, Rachel and her mother start to meet. Rachel learns that her mother is lonely and full of shame about her relationship with the abusive conman. After Beth left Las Vegas, he nearly beat Rachel’s mother to death—and then she escaped, too. Rachel decides that she “need[s] to learn forgiveness and compassion.” As she does, she gradually feels better—and even starts writing again. Rachel and her siblings learn that their mother has suffered from depression virtually all her life, and was devastated by the divorce with their father. She never contacted her children because she was terrified that they would reject her. Eventually, even Beth reconnects with her mother.
Rachel learns to forgive her mother by understanding the circumstances that drove her mother’s hurtful decisions. In fact, Rachel sees that her mother withdrew from the family for the same reason as she withdrew from her mother—because of a fear of vulnerability and abandonment. This created a vicious cycle: Rachel and Beth’s mother abandoned them because of her own fear of intimacy, and this instilled the same fear in them, which led them to withdraw from relationships in their own lives. While Rachel has identified the cycle and reconnected with her mother, her history of failed relationships shows that she still hasn’t fully managed to end this cycle. Still, she has learned to gradually fight the cycle through forgiveness, connection, and reconciliation—something that she also hopes Beth will learn to do in her daily life.
Themes
Love and Family Theme Icon
Growth, Change, and Morality Theme Icon
Related Quotes
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