Today’s post is from a bestseller I’m writing called:
Five Times Around
(Why I Escaped to Joyceland)
Here is an excerpt from Chapter 4:
Things I’ve Occasionally Misplaced
Oh, the joys of the big, yellow school bus! Bulldog was entering kindergarten and we’d decided to go parochial. I was raised Catholic, but didn’t attend Catholic school and so, can I be honest and say I was kind of suspicious of the whole Catholic school thing? Okay. Well. I was. The idea of everybody reading, writing, arithmeticing, and praying together in uniform was just a little foreign to me.
Because of where we live, we miss the Catholic school bus cutoff by half a block. School bus boundaries really tick me off. Since we were semi-sheltering Bulldog by sending him to Catholic school, we decided he should ride the bus home and that I’d pick him up at the stop closest to our house. For these reasons, I had developed a relationship with Amber, the bus company router. Amber and I had spoken so many times before school began that we mutually agreed I’d be godmother to her first-born when and if she had a baby.
The school year began with all of its usual excitement and the bonus was that the first two bus rides home took over an hour apiece. We live five minutes from school. Bulldog came off the bus with a forced half-smile muttering, “Boy, that was a looooooonnnng ride.” And he was dripping in five-year old sweat. Riding the bus was obviously a lot of hard work. I admit, also, that I worried when I met Billy, the bus driver, because he had more silver than white teeth and could have won a most tattooed man contest. I feel guilty saying this because I’m a Christian and shouldn’t be judging people. You’ve heard the song about knowing we are Christians by our love, by our love? Well, that song was giving me the big time tattoo fearing guilts.
After the second day of school, I called Amber to tell her about the long bus ride. We agreed on a different pickup spot for day three where Bulldog could get off the bus with a first and second grader. Amber was certainly good at her job. The next day came and I waited, waited, and waited at the new stop. No bus. I ran to the house where the first and second graders lived and was told by the mom that she NEVER lets her kids ride the bus. Ever. Under no circumstances. Hmmmmm. So, I raced to the stop closest to our house. No bus. Then I panicked and sped over to school. Jane, the school secretary, tried to get through to the bus company, but all she got was a busy signal. Here is God’s truth: at the start of the school year buses are driving all over hell, kids are getting lost left and right, and frantic parents are jamming up the phone lines.
After three attempts to reach the bus company Jane shouted in a high pitched tone, “Mrs. Pitmann?” Mrs. Pitmann was our brand new, high energy, very vivacious principal. I’ve been told it’s difficult to find such a spanky principal at a Catholic school. Catholic and spanky usually don’t go together. Anyway, sassy Mrs. Pitmann whipped around the corner to help and I burst into tears. Then she declared, by the power of the Holy Spirit vested in her, that we needed to drive straight to the bus company to find Bulldog. I think I fell in love with Mrs. Pitmann at that very moment.
We both tried to catch our breath as we ran into the building looking for Amber, but Amber directed us to the dispatcher—-a deliciously plump and kind black woman. Mrs. Pitmann calmly stated that we were missing Bulldog from bus route 64. The dispatcher quickly put a call over the intercom to the bus driver, “Billy, where you put Bulldog? What you do with that boy called Bulldog?” Billy replied in a language we couldn’t immediately recognize. Billy had a mouth full of silver, a tremendous collection of tattoos, and you couldn’t understand a damn word he said. Next the dispatcher got a little rough and said, “Billy, where you drop that chil’ off? Where you leave him, Billy?” Again, no one could understand Billy’s reply. I began to hyperventilate. Mrs. Pitmann was fanning me with her pretty hands. The dispatcher got very firm and demanded in a loud voice, “Billy, tell us where you put that Bulldog!!!!” And at that moment, God miraculously gave Billy the gift of speech and he said perfectly clearly, “16830 Vanderbilt Street.” Jesus, Mary, and Joseph—that was our house—and we weren’t even on the bus route!
I raced home with a pounding heart and found Bulldog sitting on the stairs with our cleaning person who comes to help occasionally. Bulldog barked with a sweat drenched face, “THAT was loooooooooooooonng ride.” And what did I do? I did what any good mother does in a moment of crisis. I asked him what he wanted to eat.
A few minutes later our doorbell rang and it was Mrs. Pitmann. Bulldog made a beeline upstairs because he thought he was in trouble. As I visited with Mrs. Pitmann in our foyer, Bulldog began making loud and embarrassing animal sounds from his bedroom—-monkey calls, tiger roars, cow moos, unidentifiable grunts and snorts—-and then he started tossing his stuffed animal collection over the banister. Could a mother be more proud? Was the new principal wondering if this child would need professional help in the future?
Mrs. Pitmann told me that the deliciously large dispatcher had kept her composure while I was at the bus company. But as soon as I left to see if Bulldog was where Billy said he was, the dispatcher put her hands together in prayer while shouting hysterically, “Oh Sweet Jesus, bring that baby boy home to his mama. Dear Precious Jesus, let that boy be safe at home with his mama. Oh Law, have mercy on us all.”
Was this one of those Catholic school miracles I’d heard so much about? Maybe. Did Bulldog need to see a shrink? Hopefully not. Do all principals make house calls? Not on your life. And was Mrs. Pitmann offended when I begged to kiss her bare ass? Sort of. But thank God for a spanky principal who took the Bulldog by the horns when I’d misplaced him. On that day she made me a believer in all things good.