I have driven by this bus stop several times and always wondered why it was decorated. I recently found out about the story behind it, and it makes me smile every time I drive by. So this morning I brought my camera bright and early to see what Grace had in store for Mother's day. I was not the only one interested--Heidi Glaus and News Channel 5 were there doing a story on Grace and the mystery bus stop. Grace and her gang were handing out flowers to all the mother's that drove by. Everyone was waving and honking and smiling. What an amazing story, an amazing family and inspiring young lady. Here is the back story on Grace, taken from the Grace's Glendale Bus Stop Facebook page:
"It's a fact of life. Goals keep us moving forward. Even if we still have seven pending items on our "to do" list at the end of the day, what matters are the five that are checked off. Did that. Fini. Done.
Once Grace graduated from high school, she set the goal to get around town on her own. The Metro bus was the solution. After a few short weeks, several rides with us and the ever-patient Metro trainers, Grace was an independent bus rider. And, most of the time, she ended up where she intended to go. Check. Goal reached.
You may ask, "What makes a bus stop a landmark?" The short form answer is the presence of Grace -- the girl and the goodwill. The longer explanation involves a man named Tom (Grace's father) who detests audience participation, can't drive within a square mile of a karaoke bar, sometimes leaves the room when he senses a TV character is about to embarrass him or herself, and whose decorating specialty heretofore was limited to the few spots on the Christmas tree that no one else could reach. Oh, and he's not too keen on donning a costume on Halloween. This man named Tom, who now regularly shops at Hobby Lobby, has strayed so far out of his comfort zone that he needs a GPS to find it. He's plunged into the spirit of the bus stop, letting everyone who passes by know that someone special waits here for the bus. Concerned about the narrow strip of land between the bus stop sign and the open road on which it's perched, he built a bench for Grace. Not only is it a place for her to sit, it attracts the attention of drivers, letting them know to proceed with caution. Once the bench was built, painted and put to the test, the fun really began.
Balloons appeared on October 1st, Grace's birthday. Plastic orange and purple pumpkins (since when is purple in the Halloween palette?) followed, swaying on a cable strung between the two telephone poles that straddle the bus stop. The pumpkins caught the attention of the community newspaper, and there sat Grace proudly introducing her bus stop to the immediate world. Something akin to a following happened after her newspaper appearance. A few more people discovered the genesis of the bus stop and started watching for what would come next. Others were just beginning to look to the left or right when they drove by, causing them to ask "What was that?" A woman, camera in hand, told Tom she was taking a photo to send to her daughter in Italy. There was a growing buzz about the bus stop. "Who is doing this?" Some assumed it was connected to the big plaid-uniformed school around the corner. Nothing doing. People there were just as puzzled. Word had not spread far and wide yet. So everyone kept watch.
Full-color cardboard turkeys, bursting cornucopia and garlands of autumn leaves appeared. Then came the decorations of December -- large, faceted chrome ornaments, red and silver roping and Merry Christmas messages. A real joy-to-the-world-display. Nothing fancy, but a feel-good-holiday-oasis on the way to the highway. But it didn't end there. For one half hour on the Tuesday morning prior to Christmas, the tallest, slimmest Santa Claus carried his mug of coffee to the bus stop and, along with his elf, waved and ho-ho-hoed to everyone who drove by. The spirit was contagious. Drivers honked. School carpools doubled-back to snap photos on their smart phones. Two burly linemen in a rumbling, oversized utility truck shouted, "Hi, Santa!" like little boys. School bus drivers slowed for their passengers to get a better look. Even the driver of Grace's Metro bus insisted that Santa pose for a picture on the steps of her bus. Then Grace boarded the bus, Santa got dressed for work, and the day returned to the way it had started. It was magical nonetheless.
Christmas lingered at the bus stop for several weeks, giving way to a personal message in January. Based on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, Grace and Tom drew attention to the fact that, like everyone, Grace has a dream. A dream of respect, acceptance and independence. Long live all of our dreams!
Palpable love filled the air in February. Though there was snow on the ground, Cupid and his Valentine made a huge splash. More honking, more photo ops and, well, more love. A lone westbound cyclist could be heard before seen. "Woo hoo, Cupid! Woo hoo Cupid! Woo hoo, Cupid!" He was as much a part of the show as Grace and Tom blowing kisses, waving, and shooting their arrows of love at passing cars. It was a beautiful thing. It was a lovefest.
More people caught bus stop fever, discussing it with us, neighbors, anyone who had passed the bus stop or caught a show. "What do you think is coming next?" "What will he do for March?" Though Will Ferrell's tall-guy-impersonating-short-cultural-icons-schtick is inspiring, Tom decided against leprechaun wear. Cupid no more, Tom was dressed as St. Patrick himself. Miter, staff, shamrock green vestments, everything but the snakes writhing around his ankles. But isn't it a felony in the State of Missouri to impersonate a saint? By now, the bus stop had become a stage, commuters their audience, and they were bravoed by more than their fellow Hibernians that morning. As St. Patrick crossed the street to return to reality, a lovely white-haired couple who claimed Irish roots drove up to take his photo. She gently said, "We were watching for you, and so afraid we'd missed you!" Then she snapped her photo and they drove off.
Next stop Easter. Yes. It's true. Big, pink, fuzzy and cotton-tailed. And he actually hopped to and from the bus stop. The photos say it all. Almost.
This is about a bus stop, on the surface. But it's mostly about a young woman who lives in the moment, trying her best to teach the rest of us to do the same. As Jane (Meryl Streep in It's Complicated) says, "Fun is not overrated." Catch bus stop fever. Live in the moment as best you can. Never underestimate the power of fun. Or love.
Stay tuned . . . "
Thank you, Grace, for my beautiful flowers this morning. I hope you enjoy your pictures!