Tuesday, January 20, 2009

sticking my neck out

I've been thinking about potential themes for my memoir, for my life. One might be ‘sticking my neck out.’ You know, jumping into something before I know the consequences, either because I have no inkling of those consequences or because I think I can tolerate the ‘hard parts’ before I know what the hard parts are.

The first time I remember this, literally, happening was a warm, fall day, I was sitting in the aisle seat near the back of a yellow school bus, thrilled to be venturing into to my 3rd week of kindergarten. I wore a plaid dress with a limp cotton belt and I had a pixie haircut, which I hated because, of course, I wanted to have long luxurious hair like the women on the Prell commercials. My bare legs stuck to the seat, but no matter. I was happy, engaged, giggling with my new friends. In fact everyone on the bus was excited and energized. This energy was familiar to me because it resembled my own family of eight when moods were just right. Joy shared evokes more joy. In our family one voice overtakes the other, then another, as if whoever gets the biggest laugh, wins. So I was comfortable being just another in the clamor of kid-voices on the bus that day.

Suddenly I found myself thinking: Wait a second, is that someone speaking to us?

I tried to gather my attention, and when I finally tuned in to the driver’s deep voice I heard, “…and so if you want to come up here and sit…” as he pointed to the floor next to him.

Front and Center! That would be fun.

He continued, “…Well then, just say so now.”

“Oh I do! I do!” I shouted out as I leaned into the aisle and waved my hand, an enthusiastic volunteer.

“Then get up here!” he bellowed.

Uh oh… he’s not happy; he’s mad. He’s mad at us. I tentatively got out of my seat.

“Come on, get up here!” he yelled, exasperated.

Now I’m in trouble …

My joy dissolved. Slowly, one ankleted oxford in front of the other, I walked up the up the suddenly long, eerily quiet aisle. All eyes were on me.

Oh, this is not at all what I thought.

Struggling to figure out what went wrong, I began to whimper. An older girl reached out and took my hand.

“You didn’t mean that did you?” she asked. I shook my head. She called out to the scary bus driver, “She didn’t know what you meant. Can I keep her here with me?”

“OK. Everyone just keep a lid on it, will ya?”

She pulled me onto her lap. I was saved, safe, and only a hair less confidant as I made my way in the world.

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