I find it fascinating how some select childhood memories seem to "stick" for all eternity, while the majority of our youth experiences end up evaporating slowly over time.
Here's one of those memories from my childhood that for whatever reason left its mark so strongly, I can still remember it like it happened yesterday...
Like many kids, my first experience with a school bus was when I was in kindergarten.
I remember feeling so grown up because I was riding the same bus as the "big" kids. Every morning we would walk down our gravel road together to the bus stop on the corner and wait for Mr. Moe to pull up and open the door. It was very exciting for me and I looked forward to it every day.
One crisp day that fall we all gathered on the corner as usual and waited for the big yellow bus to pull up to our stop. Once the older kids rushed past me to get on the bus first (like they always did) it was my turn. I lifted my knee way up to my chin and took that big jump up and onto the bus.
This is when Mr. Moe stuck out his big long arm and proceeded to stop me right there on that bottom step.
"You're not going to school today!" he shouted over the rattle of the old diesel engine.
I laughed, thinking he was making a joke, and hopped up to the next step. Mr. Moe leaned forward and practically stiff-armed me in an attempt to stop me in my tracks.
"I said, you're not going to school today. Now step down and go home!"
I just stood there and looked at him blankly, not understanding at all why he was saying this to me.
"Go on. Get going now," he said as he began to rev up the engine to drive home the point that he needed to keep going.
I was mortified. Why wouldn't he let me get on the bus? Why wouldn't he let me go to school? What did I do wrong?!!
So, I stepped down off the bus and backed my way toward the curb, still refusing to believe Mr. Moe was serious. But sure enough, no sooner had I stepped up onto the sidewalk when the bus rolled forward and drove off down the street.
It was then that I started crying. I just didn't understand any of it. Mr. Moe was normally such a nice old man. Why was he being so mean?
As I walked back down the street to go home, Mrs. Stepp was coming down her driveway and saw me bawling my head off. "Oh my God honey, what's wrong?" she screamed as she rushed over to me and put her arms around me, pulling me close into her stomach.
"(huhha) Mister Moe would'n (huhha) let me goawnna bus (bwaaaaa)."
"Oh sweetheart, I'm sure it's just a misunderstanding. Come on, I'll walk you home."
Sure enough, Mrs. Stepp was right - it was a big misunderstanding. For some reason the kindergarten teachers were having in-service training that day and I didn't have school. I'm now thinking Mr. Moe could have used some "how to communicate effectively with children" training himself.
The good news for me was that "mom guilt" just happens to be a very lucrative reward for a 5 year-old. Suddenly, an unplanned day off became a day filled with extra attention, a trip to the dime store, and lots of chocolate chip cookies!