A Memoir by Kelly O’Hara
It wasn’t my fault this time, I grumbled, as I walked into the school office. The director never mentioned that the tryouts had been changed to next week.
“Hi, Miss Cupp, may I use the phone? I missed my bus, so I have to call my Mom.”
“Sure honey, over this way. What’s the number?”
I didn’t know why she had to dial the number. I wasn’t going to call China or anything. My Mom answered and just gave a big sigh. She said it would be about 15 minutes.
“Thanks,” I whimpered and added “Sorry.”
I was waiting in front of the building, between the sets of double doors, when I decided to go out and sit on the curb. It was strange to be there with no kids or buses at a time when I would normally be nowhere near the school.
The temperature was unusually warm for an early spring day and the breeze felt like a warm hug. It felt so good to be outside after such a long, snowy winter. Sprouts of new lime green grass were popping up on the school lawn with a handful purple and white crocuses sprinkled here and there.
As I sat on the curb, I hugged my knees, closed my eyes, and tilted my face toward the sun. Does anything feel better than spring I thought to myself? As a shadow crawled across my face, I blinked my eyes open and there, blocking the sun, was Jonathan smiling down at me.
“What are you doing here?” he asked.
More importantly, I thought, why did my heart skip a beat and why can’t I form a sentence? Then finally, clarity. “Oh, I missed my bus. I have somewhat of a bad history with buses. So now I’m waiting for my Mom to pick me up. She won’t be very happy. What are you doing here?”
“I was just visiting with my uncle Jack. He’s the janitor here. Sometimes I help him if he needs me.”
“He’s your uncle?”
“Yep.” he smiled.
“And you help him sometimes…He’s really nice.”
“Yes, he’s a good man,” Jonathan replied with pride. “So where do you live?”
As I stood up, I got a whiff of Jonathan’s soapy clean scent. I babbled, “I live in Douglas Hills, you know, down Shelbyville past the orphanage off of Volpaire Drive.” I paused, “Where do you live?”
He smiled a knowing smile, like where-do-you-think-I-live? “Oh, my house is behind the school here.”
“Well at least you get to walk to school instead of waiting for a bus especially on a day like today. Sorry I didn’t say “Hi” when you first walked up. I was enjoying the sun so much. Do you need a ride home?”
Jonathan shook his head. The smartest, nicest boy in my school wouldn’t or couldn’t take a ride. Just another unspoken rule.
“But I’ll wait until your Mom gets here,” he offered, “if that’s OK?”
If that’s okay? My heart melted. He is the finest human being I’ve ever met. We stood there making small talk for another five minutes until my Mom’s car came around the corner. She pulled up and looked at Jonathan and said, “Do you need a ride?”
“No thanks, ma’am, I only live a block away.” He waved and off he went.
“I’m sorry if I took too long,” my Mom explained. “I had to stop and get gas, it was on E!”
I told her it didn’t take long at all and I meant it. She could have taken longer, much longer.
As we were driving home, I began to wonder about something. Was it because I was young and not originally from Kentucky, that I didn’t like or understand these unspoken rules?
Rules such as, since we didn’t have the same skin color we couldn’t live in each other’s neighborhoods? Or we couldn’t take rides from one another’s parents? Oh, we could be friends, but really, only in school.
My emotions were all jumbled up. I needed to get home and argue with my sister or play cards with my brother. Back to the normal and the mundane.
Kelly Brick O’Hara is a lifelong writer. While growing up she had the privilege of living in many states and towns across the country. She now resides in Glenside Pa. with her husband Joe and son Finnian. She enjoys our many parks, land preservation, and protecting the environment.