Friday, March 4, 2011

Why Pizza Makes Me Think of New Families

When I was about 6 I was a very shy, quiet kid, who never made much of a fuss about anything. I had a babysitter who would watch me after school most days, and I rode the bus home with her kids, who were just a little older than me. I didn't know it at the time, but I often fell asleep on the bus, always waking up in time to get off at the right stop, so my babysitter's kids never thought much about it.

Riding the school bus to my babysitter's home one day, I suddenly realized that I didn't recognize any of the bus stops, my babysitter's kids were nowhere to be seen, and I didn't recognize any of the kids that were on the bus.

Maybe I'd seen too many old Twilight Zone shows, or heard too many creepy old-time radio plays, but at no point did it occur to me that I might have missed my stop, and instead I immediately jumped to the conclusion that my soul had somehow switched places with another child's.

Along with this conclusion came the horrible realization that I had no idea where the new me lived, or the name of my family, or even my own name.

The bus driver didn't seem to think it was odd that I was still on the bus as it became emptier, and emptier, so I just assumed that I should keep riding until he knew where to drop me off.

After what seemed like hundreds of stops, where I kept looking outside for anything familiar, and hoping that a sibling, or someone who knew me, was riding the bus and told me I needed to get off with them, I was one of only 2 other kids still on board when the bus came to its final stop.

I hesitated while getting off the bus, because I had no idea where I was, and the other two kids quickly disappeared, but instead of finding out what was wrong, the driver just said,

Any other kid would probably have said, or done, something... anything... to let the driver know that she didn't belong there, but I just smiled, nodded, and climbed down on to the dirt road, at the top of a dead end, on the edge of a hill, in the middle of who-knows-where, and started walking.

Once the bus left, I just stopped, sat on a big rock, and peed right through my clothes. I probably cried too, but I don't remember that part.

You'd think that a child with soggy pants wandering aimlessly on a dirt road, in front of a bunch of houses, would attract attention, but you would be wrong. It was the 80's, man.

When it had been long enough for my clothes to become cold and kind of crinkly, but not quite drying, a boy and girl wandered out of their house and saw me standing at the end of their driveway just staring, scared, and speechless.

After trying to get me to answer their questions, or even say a word, but getting nowhere, the older daughter ran inside and got her mom, who brought me inside, and got me to talk some. I was at her house a long time. We watched TV, I played with the kids, they gave me drinks and snacks, the daughter and I played a board game, and we were having a ton of fun. I thought I'd found a new home.

As night fell outside, the mom ordered pizza, and I was THRILLED. I loved pizza, this new family was awesome, and I was hoping beyond hope that I would get to stay forever.

Right before the pizza was supposed to get there, my mom showed up with one of her friends and took me home.

For months I was sure that if I'd been there when the pizza arrived I could have stayed and been part of their family, then I went to hoping I would run into the kids somewhere, because they had been so much fun. Unfortunately, I never saw anyone from that family again.

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