Winter thaws old memories

Published 11:59 pm Friday, January 30, 2009

Some like it hot, some like it cold, but I prefer warm weather every time. Our recent cold snap left me all a’ shiver when I ventured outside. I’m not an early riser, but I was up to catch the sight of frost across our lawn and on the roof of a church in view of our kitchen window a few times. When I drew back the blinds on our sun porch I saw several birds walking across a sheet of ice on the bird bath.

I bundled up in warm clothes topped with a hooded jacket and gloves when I was out on the cold, windy days. I felt so stuffed I reminded myself of Ralphie’s little brother in his snowsuit in my family’s favorite Christmas movie.

Once back inside, I snuggled under a chenille throw on the couch and my thoughts floated back to my elementary school years in Jefferson County, Ala. In those days, I rode a rattling old school bus. It was always cold and breezy in winter and sweltering hot in early fall and spring.

On the extremely cold days, my mother sent me off all bundled up. Sometimes I wore my pajama bottom under my slacks to protect my legs from the cold. I lived in fear that it might show below my slacks. I knew if someone saw it, I was in for plenty of teasing.

I can almost feel myself riding along in that bus on nippy fall mornings when the first frosts clung to the windshield; and on cold winter mornings when a thick coating of frost stretched across meadows and turned rooftops silver. I remember iced-over ditches and mud puddles that made the little boys on our bus just itch to get out and shatter with their feet.

That school bus took us through miles of dusty, country roads. How I hated the numerous hairpin curves we rounded. It seemed that the bus almost met itself on some of them, causing a queasy feeling in my stomach. During dry weather, those maneuvers generated a cloud of dust that clogged our nostrils and made our throats dry.

By the time we reached our school on a hilltop, any discomfort we had experienced during our ride was forgotten. We snatched our books and satchels, piled off the bus and headed for the doors where we lined up for classes.

I remember two bus drivers vividly. One was an old man who patiently put up with the noise a bus full of children generated. The other was a high school senior who barely got us off a railroad track one afternoon as a train barreled toward us.

Every day I hopped off the bus in front of our house. As soon as I opened the door, our two rat terriers greeted me with wet, sloppy kisses.

That was long ago, but sometimes the sight of a loaded school bus or a silvery coating on a rooftop takes me back to those early school days.