In December,1977 my two children and I took a trip from Virginia to Mississippi on a well known bus line. My daughter was about four and my son was around six. We were going down to visit my maternal grandparents for the Christmas Holiday, the children's father had to work and could not go with us, so was sending us on the bus.
The children had out grown every thing they had that year so I had spent many hours at the sewing machine making new clothes for them for Christmas presents. The Shipyard where their father worked had been on strike for a while and money was excruciatingly tight so the clothes and the trip were their entire Christmas.
We were all excited about the trip, Memaw and Papaw were some of our favorite family members and we hadn't seen them in quite a while so it was a treat all the way round. On the day before we were to leave I was packing up to go my little daughter asked me if she could take her best loved bed toy, a stuffed mouse she had named Bripe-eyes. She was trying to say Bright-eyes but being so little her words were still baby sweet and expressive. I explained that it would be alright if she put her doll in her suit case so she would not get left behind and lost. After much discussion, she acquiesced and the Bripe-eyes went into the suitcase with all the new clothes.
We ended up with two suit cases, one for me and one for the children. Off to the bus station we went, hopes and expectations high and excitement off the charts! Goodbyes were said, hugs all round, onto the bus and away we went. We were leaving from the city of Newport News in Virginia. Our route took us north to the capitol city of Richmond, this was about eighty some miles in the opposite direction of our destination...I begin to think this might not be the best trip ever, but, I held out hope.
By the time we were on the road thirty minutes,my doubts became reality, my son had developed the worst case of motion sickness I have ever seen in my life. We were sitting about half way back and his mad-dash trips to the bathroom were beginning to wear out the carpet. In Richmond we would change buses and head south. When we finally got to the depot for the change over, I was able to ask the driver if, because of the severity of the motion sickness, we could sit behind him. This positioned the child’s head in the path of the air leak from the door giving him fresh air that stopped the throwing up. He was still quite ill and weak from it so was having to be carried while I tried to keep a hand hold on the busy, nosy four year old. We got permission for the desired location and, with a sick little rag doll head in my lap and a squirmy anxious seat partner, off we went again.
The remainder of our trip was a series of bus changes, waiting in terminals of dubious and smelly nature, more throwing up (remember the smelly part) questions (mostly in ringing whispers and of an embarrassing nature) about the patrons around us, awful food from vending machines, if one dared, and forcing ourselves to get on the next bus. Every one required the talk with the driver about the air from the door to alleviate the worst of the motion sickness and , most of the time we got the seat. The kind person would nod in understanding and move. Once or twice, there was someone who had an affinity for the seat and would not move. When the vomit made an appearance, they changed their mind. On one bus that was quite full we had to sit way back in the back. There was no seat for the three of us together so the little one had to sit across the isle from us so was annoying everyone around her with questions. About ten minutes into this leg of the trip, a man sauntered past with a news paper under his arm, headed for the restroom. Really? A news paper in a bus bathroom! I said as he went past “ the boy is sick and may need to get in there suddenly.” our hero shrugged, made a rude comment and went in for his daily constitutional. After fifteen minutes my volcano began it's next eruption. He was so empty by now that there was a moment for him to jump up and bang on the door. “Wadda ya want?” was the response. “I have to throw....” and he did, bringing the man out of the lavatory and grossing out the entire bus. Luckily we were only a few miles from the next stop. As personae non gratae we had to wait to be last to get off and the word sorry lost all meaning. I was officially stressed, it was about two in the morning and thank goodness this was the last transfer.
We got off the reeking conveyance and went into the nicest terminal yet, bright, clean, fresh, a lunch counter with food from the same century we were in and clean bathrooms. Our layover was to be about an hour and a half...relief, of sorts.
I took the children into the wash room and gave them both a bird bath in the sink, more to help my feelings than theirs but I did hope to make my little sicky not so sticky. We washed our faces and teeth and began to feel almost human again. Then to the food counter to get some ginger ale and toast into Vesuvius, hoping it was nourishment rather than a reload. I got coffee, hot strong coffee and gave squirmy something soothing. Too soon it was time to leave.
With tears in their eyes, mine too probably, we approached the next bus. I saw our suitcases being loaded into the bottom hatches, and, just as my foot touched the bottom stair, I was stopped. “Lady, you are going on the express bus to Meridian, the white one over there.” “But our suitcases are on this bus.” I answered, I was told they would be moved.
Exhausted, worried about my son and our luggage, thinking I could not take one more thing, I turned and dragged my two little ones the length of the building to the express bus. I climbed it and began to explain the door-air thing to the driver as he sat there looking at me as though I had grown two heads.
The bus was only about half full and most of them were soldiers. People were scattered about throughout the bus so that there was no place for the three of us to sit together. There was one soldier behind the driver. The driver informed me that I should just stop my whining and sit somewhere and stop bothering him. As I stood there fighting the tears of fatigue, frustration and anger the Commanding Officer stood to attention, he was located somewhat in the center of the bus, and in his best drill instructor voice intoned, “Solder, there is a lady with a sick child a tten-hut!” the entire bus came to attention, even the civilians. “Get that seat empty you!, Bring the boy a ginger-ale! Bring the baby a blanket, Mam do you require anything? Soldier give her a pillow!” The activity was immediate and huge. When it stopped I was comfortably seated behind the driver with a pillow for my head, a blanket was tucked in around squirmy girl, Vesuvius had a fresh cold, tummy settling soda and we were off again. I turned in my seat to say thank you but everyone was either asleep or busy with other pursuits and I was too tired to push it.
Let me explain what express bus means in these parts. The bus travels at the speed of sound and, if you happen to be in the back seat you feel like you are on the last hair of a happy dogs tail. There are no stops, the trees go by like pickets in a fence and the roads through the swamp are like rick rack. We were doing alright in our seat behind the driver. He and I were the only two awake on the bus flying through the darkness. The only light to be seen was the occasional dim flicker from a poor hut out in the swampy woods.
As we zoomed on our way I sort of drifted in and out of awareness while staring at the face of the driver in the rear view mirror. Suddenly I was snapped out of my lethargy by the slowing of the bus. The driver's face went ghost white and we stopped all together. He jumped up, opened the door and stood there gawping at the road behind us. He turned to me and said stay there and say nothing. Yeah, right I got up to see what was wrong, so did everyone else. Windows opened and heads poked out and the gasps rippled through the passengers. Our Commander once again barked a command an all of the soldiers got up and went to work. Spread out on the black top as far as we could see was the luggage and the continents of said luggage. The doors of the cargo space under the bus had opened and everything was out on the road. The soldiers were double timing down the road picking up everything they could carry. The passengers who were able got out and helped. I counted three trips before the driver said we had to press on.
We got to our destination by mid morning. My children's suitcase and belongings were gone,new clothes, bed doll, their whole Christmas, never to be seen again. But my point in telling you this is my memory of what those soldiers did. With grace and determination they served in a way that the regular people didn't care to do. It was a small thing, both times but it made such an impact on me that thirty five years later I am still grateful for everyone of them. I never found out any names, ranks or where they came from. I don't know where they are now or what the are doing but I so feel that they are remarkable people and on this special day of remembrance I want to say thank you for all you have done for our country and its people over the years. THANK YOU ALL!
© Chessie Roberts 2012, all rights reserved
Chessie Roberts is a Singer/song Writer, Spiritual Teacher, Mind-set Mentor, Meditation Coach, Author, Lecturer and the Founder/Creator of Evolution of Self; Journey into Body, Mind, Spirit Balance. Her experience with severe,crippling arthritis was her catalyst to share her healing, experiential self improvement program with those who wish to rediscover their balance of Body, Mind, Spirit. Her ability to put things into an easy to learn package allows participants to fine tune their healing intentions, identify personal goals and clarify the path they wish to devise in order to heal themselves and grow into their own Spiritual Evolution. You can find the program at www.eos4me.com