I figure it’s time to take y’all to school. I’ll take you along on my morning route. Please have your bus passes ready! But first I have to warn you that the route involves space travel. Space suits and gravity belts are encouraged but not required. Fasten your seat belts!
“Ground Control to Major Tom” – David Bowie
I get out of my warm car into the cold predawn air. I clock in and head out for the four minute walk to the far end of the parking lot. My permanent spare bus seems colder than outside. Check fluids, start the big diesel engine and walk around the bus to check lights.
I approach the first stop of the day in the dark. Three kids are waiting. The last of the three is a little girl I’ll call Penelope. She’s four years old, smart as a whip, cute as a button and full of imagination.
She says, “Uncle Jimmy Joe, it’s COLD out!”
How cold is it?
“It’s BIG COLD!”
You may have noticed that Penelope calls me Uncle Jimmy Joe. We are not related as far as I know. I’ve never asked her to call me Uncle but she does. She gave me a Christmas gift card addressed to Uncle Jimmy Joe. It was obviously written in adult hand, not four year old scratch, so I’m guessing her parents and/or grandparents think of me as Uncle Jimmy Joe as well. I’m honored.
I help Penelope with her seat belt.
She says, “Uncle Jimmy Joe, can we go to the moon today?”
I say, “Of course we can. But first we have the three circles.”
I continue on the route toward the first of three circles. The Big Circle is the U-turn lane that goes under the highway. As soon as we come out of the big circle we see the Circle on the Sign, which happens to be in front of a Target store. We go right and left and stop to pick up another student. Now it’s time for the Little Circle, the third and last of the three. The Little Circle is at the end of a cul de sac. As soon as the three circle sequence is completed, the bus is flung into orbit on the Moon Highway.
The bus lands softly on the moon in front of a big house with a turret in the middle.
I say, “Look, Penelope, it’s the Moon Castle!”
She says, “That’s not the Moon Castle, it’s the Moon Castle House!”
“Oh,” I said. “Have you seen any moon cars?”
“No, but I see a moon dog! And Moon Trees!”
We pick up more kids. Moon kids.
Penelope says, “Uncle Jimmy Joe, I painted the moon pink.”
“What?! You painted the moon pink? How did you do that so fast?”
“I wore my running shoes.” Then she said, “Are we at school yet?”
Penelope: No, we’re not!
Me: How will we get to school if we’re still on the moon?
Penelope: The school is on the moon, silly!
Me: Oh, okay.
Penelope: Uncle Jimmy Joe, when will we get to school? I want to learn!
Right about then I pull the wheel hard to the right to make that wide turn into the bus circle at the school. I guess it’s really a four circle sequence.
One of the bigger kids helps Penelope with her seat belt and she scoots out the door and into the school where she goes to learn.
I hope you’ve enjoyed our ride today. As my late great Uncle Wendell told my brother Mike on his first day of Kindergarten long, long ago, “You don’t have to go to school. I spoke with the teacher. It’s okay.”