September 17, 2009

Lizzy Revisited: The Short Bus

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I've been feeling bad about not writing for so long, so I decided to re-post some old Lizzy Dishes posts that I like. This first one was originally posted last November. I wrote it for a storytelling event, where people listened with horrified expressions on their faces and made groaning, sympathy noises. Then someone shouted, "We still love you!" They didn't get it. This was indeed part of my childhood. But it's FUNNY. At least I think it's funny. So please don't feel sorry for me. Just laugh. Okay?

My rep as a goody goody was hard to shake. There were little things that perpetuated my situation, like the time my mom tried to get Judy Blume books banned from our school library, or the time I had a sleepover at my house and my parents wouldn’t let us watch Grease. But mainly, it was my personality and my self-esteem deficit that screamed “I am a loser!!!!!”

I tried to reverse these situations with such crazy rebellious acts as rolling my eyes at the teacher and practicing swearing in my backyard so that when the situation called for it, I could whip out cuss words like nobody’s business.

Right about the time I was getting comfortable with my newfound sassiness, my mother decided to pick up an extra job. She announced one night, that she would be driving a school bus. Not just any school bus. The Special Ed bus. The short bus. The short bus that said “Sullivan County Rehab Center” on the side of it in giant black letters.

This would have been humiliating on its own, had the school bus company had strict rules about, oh, say, the school bus drivers not going off the route to take their own kids to and from school. But because the normal school bus did not come by our house, my mom decided that it was okay to take us to and from school on her bus route.

We all piled in the short bus in the morning. There were four of us, plus my baby brother in a car seat in the front row. The school bus was old. Some parts of the floor were completely rusted through and often I found myself mesmerized by the road passing beneath us.

First stop was John, who was about 20 and had Down’s Syndrome. He would stomp up onto the bus and plop on the seat in front of us. Then there were the twins, who had one conversation every morning: “Hi Jim, How are you?” “I’m fine, Tina, How are you?” “I’m fine, how are you?” And so on and so forth, all the way to school. Big John, a 300-pound boisterous handicapped guy, could make all of us smile, especially my mom. “Mrs. Fuss,” he would say every morning, “You look like a movie star!”

My older sister and I did not get along and would often fight on the bus rides. The Rehab Center students would take sides. “Your teeth are yellow,” my sister would say to me. They would laugh. “Shut up!” I would whine. “Yeah, you tell her!” They would yell. We fought about important things, like how ugly each others’ clothes were, or how stupid the other person was. Everytime, they would all jump in and defend us, both of us, no matter what we were saying.

My mom always felt like she had to “drop us at the door” of the school. No dropping us off at the end of the driveway – nope, she had to drive up the school driveway and drive through the parking lot, which oddly was part of the playground. All one-hundred kids would be waiting outside for the bell to ring, and they would all stare as we jumped off the bus. I always hoped that the bus was so dirty that they couldn’t see the words REHAB CENTER on the side.

But, when the day was over, we would go outside and wait for our mom to pick us up. And there she would come, up the driveway, and the kids would yell, “Here comes the Fuss Bus!”