|The Bus! The Bus! The S-U-B!|
From Mama’s journal, “September 29th, 1957: On September 16th Mark started kindergarten at the brand new Baldwin School, down on Griffith St. The first morning everything went fine; he could hardly wait to get ready and we walked down to the corner and put him on the bus.
Fortunately, Mark had sense enough (or else he was just too scared) to stay where he was instead of starting to walk. He was pretty badly scared. “I was lost and I was frightened!”
The next day he didn’t want to go to school at all, and I had to take him all the way to school, along with Matthew in the stroller, Jean and Grover tagging along.”
Seared into my mind with a white-hot branding iron, I remember this incident vividly. I remember bounding off the bus, which probably explains why the bus driver never even got a glimpse of my tag, and I remember waiting. I was clearly aware of what had happened but had no capacity to rectify it.
|I remember that grill and the word, DeSoto.|
As I wrote about the other morning, my memory for isolated incidents in my childhood, is generally 20/20. I remember a man in a hat, stopping his DeSoto and asking me if I was lost. I told him no, but that the bus was. When he asked if I needed a ride, I told him my Mama was coming to pick me up and that seemed to satisfy him because he left.
In this instance we’re talking about nothing but a big rectangle with only four streets involved, to get from home to school and then back again, but it may as well have been Bumfuck, Egypt, from my just-turned-five-year-old eyes. I knew I had made a mistake but I also knew that someone would eventually notice, if I just waited.
I was that confident.
How long? It’s hard to say for sure, but probably not more than fifteen minutes because my stop was the last one on the bus run, so the bus driver could have returned to the school, had time to figure out that something was up, and then come back to pick me up.
In remembering this incident, I had no idea it was the very first day of school. I remember Papa being righteously indignant, and waxing on eloquently about how we were going to fasten a note to my chest (which he did) saying, “Please mark Mark at the right mark!”
Mark, mark, mark? A dog with a hare-lip?
Papa’s outspoken support for my plight did wonders for my attitude, though, and I was tickled at his use of my name three times on the note.
In a somewhat macabre coincidence, this intersection of Dubesor Ave. and Valinda Ave. was to be the site of another traumatic incident in my life, this one a decade later. I was walking down Valinda with my soon-to-be-ex-friend, Dave, when a ’55 Chevy station wagon, primer black, with four dudes cruised past us, all four of them flipping us the bird.
Dave, in his infinite wisdom, returned the favor and that ’55 hung a u-turn faster than I can write the words. Dave exited, stage right, running for his life, with me too slow on the uptake to follow suit. What followed was ugly but brief. When they had finished beating me with their fists, the one guy added a kick to my backside that hurt for a month, after I was doubled up in the fetal position on the ground.
All-in-all I would rather have been in Philadelphia.
I searched the spiral notebooks for mention of this incident in my teens but there was none. I’m being facetious, of course, because Mama didn’t approve of Dave in the first place, so filling her in on the sordid details, would have resulted in nothing but more pain, so I suffered in silence.
I explained my bruised face by saying that I got hit in the face with the milk-box door at Sunrize Market, and she bought it.
“Twice?” was all she asked, but I had timed my arrival home, with that of my paycheck, and since she still raked in two-thirds of it for the household, she was distracted.
As I think back to that day on my first day of kindergarten, and how I got marooned on my way home, I realize that all sorts of dastardly things could have taken place on that same intersection, like getting beaten up, or swooped by a man in a hat, driving a DeSoto, and I recognize that I got lucky.
After all, one out of two ain’t bad: That’s a .500 batting average, and good enough for the girl I go with.