The fifth grade holds many memories for me. During its first three months—September, October, and November of 1946—a neighbor daily molested me in his car. This happened as he drove my brother and me and his own children to and from St. Mary’s Grade School. In January, I wrote three postings about Mr. Jackson. To read the first of those three, click here.
The fifth grade, however, also holds wonderful memories for me. Sister Mary McCaulay began to teach us how to craft sentences. Late last year, on my writing blog, I shared three stories about how she began with prepositions, then introduced the building blocks of sentences, and finally helped us construct paragraphs. Thus began my love affair with words and writing.
My introduction to the memorizing of poetry also enhanced fifth grade. I mentioned the joy of this in my posting last Wednesday.
A final memory from fifth grade always brings a smile to my face. I hope you, too, will enjoy this story.
After my parents confronted Mr. Jackson, I rode the city bus to school. Its route brought it out into the countryside. Each morning I’d climb aboard the bus at the juncture of Kentucky and Dickinson roads.
A 1930s school bus that came before the yellow ones we’re now used to.
When school ended each day, I could either board the bus by St. Mary’s or walk down Liberty Street and hail down the bus whenever it came by. I mostly chose to do the latter because that meant I could walk several blocks with my best friend: Barbara Ann.
I shared two stories about Barbara Ann way back in October 2012. The first had to do with preparing to receive First Holy Communion. The next concerned the mishap on that day of celebration. We were in second grade then and we remained fast friends throughout grade and high. Our friendship endures and she called me for my birthday on Monday.
By the fifth grade, Barbara Ann and I had become connoisseurs of giggling. Gigglers par excellence. Anything and everything could make us giggle. And did.
Daily we walked down Liberty Street giggling about what Jackie had said when Sister Mary McCaulay asked him to pick his favorite preposition. Giggling about what John Tom had for lunch. Giggling about what an astounding jump-rope jumper Judy was. Our giggling itself made us giggle.
And as we giggled, the pee began to dribble down my legs, wetting my cotton panties. I’d walk nine blocks with Barbara Ann, giggling and peeing all the way. Then she’d turned left to go down the street to her home and I’d wait for the bus to wheeze to a stop and pick me up.
The seats in this bus were leather or something that seemed like leather. Maybe naugahyde. So of course, when I sat on them with wet panties, I left an imprint—a large wet blotch. And since I mostly sat in the same seat each day, that blotch got bigger and darker and more obvious as the school year went on.
Finally one day in early April, I boarded the bus, greeted the welcoming driver, and started down the aisle. Before I could go more than a step or two, he called me back. “Dolores,” he began in a whisper, “I can’t let you sit down on the bus anymore.”
“The boss said so.”
“So I can’t take the bus?”
“Oh, you can ride. You just can’t sit down." He paused and then whispered more softly. "Do you know why?”
“Did I do something wrong?”
“It’s the spots you leave behind.”
“Do you want me to walk home?”
The road out into the countryside was narrow with one lane going each way and deep culverts along the side. Cars came barreling down that country road. In truth, I was a little scared to walk those three miles home.
“No, Dolores. As I said, you can ride the bus home, but you’ll just need to stand up here instead of sit.”
“Stand here by you?”
“You can stand in the stairwell. And we can talk.”
During those final weeks of fifth grade, the bus driver and I became fast friends. I told him about my classmates and what we were learning. He told me about his two preschoolers and the funny things they did.
We talked about the Blues—they were the Kansas City Triple A baseball farm team for the Yankees. And we talked about reading. He liked Zane Gray and I liked fairy tales and books like Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates: A Story of Life in Holland and Peter and Wendy.
Hans Brinker tying on his sister Gretel’s ice skates.
The friendship between the bus driver and myself continued throughout all the years I took the bus home because that stairwell became Dolores' throne. The truth is that I never stopped giggling with Barbara Ann . . . and I never stopped peeing!
All photographs from Wikipedia.