Do you ever wish you can rewind to a specific place and time in your life? For me, a lot of times I wish I were back in Juneau on this certain day several years ago, but even more often, it is just a random day in my childhood. Like a summer day in Rugby riding the pool bus.
Every summer Lauren and Leah's mom Martha drove the pool bus. The bus, parked in a bus-sized gravel spot just below Lauren and Leah's house, right up the road from my Granny's, was covered in chipping white paint and had the words ACTIVITY BUS blocked across the sides and back. It always felt like a special or exciting day when I rode the pool bus with my cousins. They went just about every day in the summer, but I was a less frequent passenger so it was always full of anticipation of something fun and different. I would either walk up the hill from my Granny's house, or my dad would drop me off at about 8 AM and would hand me a crisp ten dollar bill. Man I felt like I was so rich. Think of the Slushies I could buy with that!
Each day the bus would travel throughout a different part of the county picking up kids wanting to go to the pool. The ride typically lasted several hours, arriving at the pool immediately after lunch. Lauren and I were reminiscing about those rides last night, and other than ourselves, we couldn't remember very many other kids who rode the bus with us. We typically read books while we rode, each of us taking up an entire brown vinyl seat. We didn't interact much with the older 'cool' kids who filled the seats in the back. I remember a lot of times looking out of the window and worrying that the small curvy roads were not equipped to handle such a large vehicle swaying over them. There is still a curve near Rugby that I drive on today and can't help but think about that pool bus and wondering if we were about to tumble off the asphalt and down into the briars that covered the steep grade down into the holler.
As the bus finally rumbled through Independence, we would stop at the high school for lunch. I remember running through the gym and down the darkened halls wondering what it would be like to go to school there. What it looked like with people in it. There was a mural painted in the cafeteria, I can't recall the content, but I remember it had a lot of green and blue in it and that I thought it looked neat. We would file through the quiet lunch line, grabbing our sandwiches and choosing an apple or orange and a milk carton. The other riders and I would sit at long cafeteria tables that had flat plastic circles, much like frisbees, protruding from their undersides acting as seats. We would eat quickly, anticipating a fun day at the pool.
It cost $3 to get into the pool at the Grayson County Recreation Park. The pool was surrounded by a vast rectangular square of concrete and a tall chain link fence. There were three sections to the pool, a shallow section, complete with a separated 'kiddie' pool, a large middle section 25 meters long and marked for lanes, and a 'deep end' twelve feet deep complete with two springy, turquoise diving boards.
Choosing a spot to sit was always a very important task. Martha typically sat right in the middle, between the pool and the snack bar/juice box area. The juke box incessantly played Mmm
Bop and Cotton Eye Joe. There was light pole right in front of the juke box that Leah liked to use to help fashion a tent with her towel. Lauren, Leah, and I sat with Martha most of the time, but as we got older we tended to want to spread our towels further away to display our independence. Then came the sunscreen. Even if you had put it on during the bus ride, since you had ample time, Martha would insist on slathering your back and face with SPF 50. We weren't allowed to take another step near the pool until she was satisfied that we were sufficiently covered in sun protection. Under bathing suit straps and on our ears and our feet. She would never miss a spot and I thank her for that now.
For the next few hours we would splash and dive and reluctantly sit along the side during the fifteen minute 'adult swim' break or thunder threats. Leah tended to spend most of her time standing in the line for the diving board in order to get that 30 seconds of exhilaration from jumping off of the low springboard into the deep water. She would jump, swim to the side, and go again. And again. Another staple of a day at the pool was drinking Slushies. I preferred a plain one, just tiny round pebbles of ice covered in sugary syrup. Lauren would experiment with mixing different flavors together to achieve that perfect blend of artificial flavoring. A lot of times they came out brown, but she insisted those tasted the best. When it was time to go, we would file back on the bus for the trip back home.
Some days Martha would drop us off at the library while she finished her run to drop kids back off at their stops. Living in a small town in which the library is thirty minutes away, this was huge excitement. The library ladies didn't have the best senses of humor, and silence was required, but that smell of library books always tended to bring about an excitement for me. The anticipation of finding a perfect story within the crackling plastic lined covers to be transported into was what I always looked forward to when we stepped through those old glass doors.
I'm not sure if the ride back to Rugby was actually shorter, or if we just were so tired or engrossed in our books that we didn't notice the route as much, but when Martha finally backed the bus into it's gravel spot we were all ready for some dinner and a nap. Not necessarily in that order. Sometimes we would have enough energy to bounce on the trampoline or watch a movie at my house, but we always had a great time and were excited to do it again the next day. So, it isn't really a significant moment, or a certain day in particular, but it is just a feeling I miss. I wish all I had to do today was ride that bus, drink a Slushie, and be with my family.