My Ella is preparing for Kindgerten. Last week, she attended "bus safety" at her new school.
It brought back some memories.
Back when I was growing up, the Catholic school had busses. I rode that damn bus from the time we moved to St. Louis (I was in the first grade) all the way through the end of 8th grade.
Let me give you a little history about my school bus. It was yellow, of course. This is a given. No seatbelts (please!), we had two bus drivers throughout all those years. Don, who was also the school maintenance man. A nice hippie of a guy with long hair, kind eyes and an easy manner. And Mr. Thomas, an older gentleman (and the grandfather of two of my good friends; twins MaryAnn and Michelle). Other than his grandkids, Mr. Thomas loved one thing...his cigars. He used to smoke 'em while he'd wait for that bell to ring at the end of the school day. And during the coldest months, those little rectangular windows would be all the way up, save for one, which he cracked to let the smoke out. Needless to say, it was not an effective outlet for all that carbon monoxide.
Back then, the Catholic schools separated boys and girls for everything - not just the bathroom breaks. We ate lunch at different tables, had separate gym classes, separate lines in which to walk to and from music class, rows in church...
But I digress. We even had a "boys' side" and "girls' side" on the bus. St. Joseph's elementary was damn sure not going to risk the potentially sinful outcome of the two sexes coming together in any way, shape or form (we saved that for high school).
A quick walk down memory lane to share with you the (rather innocent) story of how we used to torture poor Mr. Thomas...
Now, the way busses work (if you aren't privy to this knowledge already), is that the older kids sit in the back. So, Kg little ones sit in the very front of the bus, and we work our way back to the 8th grade hoods in the very back. In about the 5th grade, my friend Angie, and I decide that we don't much care for being relegated to the girls' side. The boys' side sure looked a lot more fun. So, here we are, about halfway back, on the right (girls') side, sharing a bench seat.
Above the driver's seat was a long, rectangular mirror, which Mr. Thomas took full use of to glance back at his charges every few minutes - just to make sure we were all behaving as good, Catholic schoolchildren should.
So, much like detainees will wait until the guard has just crossed their path before making a run for it, we wait for him to glance back at us. When he does, we are sitting politely, smiling angelically, hands folded in our jumper-clad laps. As soon as his eyes move back to the road....
We dash to the boys' side. "Hey! Move over! Whadaya think you're doin'?"
SHhhhhh! We say.
Then, just as angelically, we pop our heads up, sit quietly, smile politely straight ahead.
Mr. Thomas takes another quick glance in his mirror, looks back at the road, and...
We dash back to the girls' side.
He does a double take. Glaring at us now, sitting properly on the girls' side.
We do this several more times, before he realizes that he's not losing his mind, and that these two little girls might just be trouble makers.
We are sent to the Principal's office.
Truly, this is about as "bad" as I behaved (at school, anyway).
Ella will be riding the school bus for the first time next Tuesday. And while there will be no boys' side/girls' side on her bus, I'm sure she'll make just as many memories. Meanwhile, I'll be trying to keep my eyes dry as I load her onto the bus for the first time. I may still be standing in the same spot - just waiting - when she is returned to me at the end of the day.