“School Bus”

First-grade me is standing next to the bus driver on the school bus.  I’m holding onto a pole.  We are at my stop, and some kids get off.  But I stay there, telling the bus driver, “I’ll show you where you go next.”

So he drives away, to numerous other stops around Queens before he comes back around to mine.  I climb down the steps of the bus, to begin walking as usual towards our apartment building.  That’s where my own memory ends.  Other people have told me the rest of the story.

Imagine the hysteria with which I am greeted — at the bus stop.  Mom is there, waiting, beyond agitated — understandably so, I now know, as a parent.  Where have I been?  Why didn’t I come through the front door at home when I was supposed to?  What happened?  

What had happened, apparently, is that the bus driver was new and did not know the route.  I did.  Don’t ask me why I knew what stops came after mine, but I did.  I was a smart little kid, even though I had skipped kindergarten and entered first grade earlier than usual and was a year younger than everyone else.  And I guess, even at my young age, I was allowed to walk home alone from the bus stop.  Even in Queens.  (It was a long time ago, and many things were different then.)

Family lore has it that Dad paid a very stern visit the next day to the principal.  Imagine that conversation.  I wonder if the bus driver lost his job.  I wonder if I ever took the school bus again.

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