When I was a kid I could board the bus in one of three places. One block away, to the south (uphill, toward the mountain) at my cousin, Holly's house. One block away, to the east, by the church, or right in front of my house. If I boarded at Holly's, I got my choice of any seat I wanted. If I boarded by the church I got most any seat I wanted and if I boarded at my house I had to sit where I could find a seat. If I boarded early I could save a seat for Pam, my best friend and we could visit or read or giggle together all the way to school. At my house I had to sit with a surly boy or a haughty high school girl or wherever. I hated sitting with surly boys or haughty girls or whatevers. I would look back to see Pam sitting with someone she didn't want to sit by either. My bus stop choices affected her too.
But, I was a slow getter-upper. And I loved to stand over the heat vent in the kitchen and let my flannel nightgown fill with warm air. I would do this for a l-o-n-g time. Mother would say things like, "Are you watching the clock?" I never was. She did it for me.
Or, I was still in bed, which happened more often. She would call up the stairs a lie such as, "It's ten minutes to eight." I had a clock ten inches away and knew it was only 7:35. She wanted me to be on time and thought a little lie was necessary. And sometimes it was, as occasionally that call woke me up from a sound sleep after I had banged my alarm off and snuggled back down under warm covers.
One day--this was in grade school--I loitered in bed one minute too long--as usual--and missed the bus at Holly's. I took off for the church at a dead run, cleared the front porch steps in one leap and vaulted across the ditch. The fear of the surly and haughty gave my little legs extra oomph. In front of Lloyd Gleave's house there was always a puddle. This morning it was frozen, but I didn't notice. My heel struck the ice and down I went. I scrambled up, bare hands scraping dirty, rutted ice. I took off again, my unbuttoned coat flying behind me. I made the corner just as the bus screeched to a stop. I got on, found a seat and settled in, nursing my bleeding hands. When Pam got on I forgot all about them and we settled in to tell secrets, laugh and enjoy the warmth of friendship--there was no warmth on the bus and we could often see our breath--but the friendship was enough.
When I got home that night Mom told me the story of the tenderness of a mother. She watched from the door as I cleared the steps, jumped the ditch and then, her hands clutched to her chest, watched as I went down on the puddle. She had her hand on the door, pushing it open when I got up and took off again. She was going to go outside, gather me up, comfort me and tell me I didn't have to go to school. How glad I am that I was off and running before she got to me. I might have gloried in the sympathy, stayed home and been pampered. Instead I went to school and faced all the things that all school students face. Some good, some bad, all contributing to who I am.
I know some people have bad memories of their school years and I have my share. Friends who did underhanded things. Boys I had a crush on who didn't ask me out or boys I didn't like, who did. Teachers who ridiculed in front of the whole class--I had one high school teacher who did this--he actually hated me, I think--and the reason was because I deserved it.
I was a brat in his class. I was even a brat right to his face. I argued with him in front of everyone more than once and I think I went to the Principal's office over it, but more often than not he gritted his teeth and put up with my rudness.
I need to put those times behind me. Not forget, maybe, but forgive. Forgive those who hurt me and forgive myself for being on the other end, being in power--or supposed power--and hurting someone else . I need to forgive myself for being rude or even for not doing my best, just sliding by and not caring that the teachers were trying to change my life for the better.
I really don't know why this all came out tonight but there it is. Since I can't apologize to all those who I hurt or disobeyed or dishonored I am confessing to you. I'm sorry. I hope I have been forgiven.
I hope your good memories overshadow your bad ones, like mine do. I hope you have forgiven others and yourself and are facing each new day with courage to get up from the frozen puddle and face life running, coattails flying, knowing that good things await.