Aug. 16, 2022

"WHAT YOU SEE-- IS--NOT-–REALLY--ME.

In the forties, very-few people owned automobiles.  Most everyone rode city buses, peddled bicycles, or simply-- walked.  I knew one woman who pushed her husband (a talented Tailor) to work-- in his wheelchair-- every day-- rain or shine. Thank goodness for sidewalks.

 Most Friday nights I stayed overnight with my Grandmother.  She patiently spent time teaching me to sew--encouraging me to write--and to excel in all areas of learning. She never learned to drive since she couldn’t afford a car so---we took the bus to the grocery store, to the library, and on most Saturday afternoons--to a movie.

 And most of the time, her neighbor, Carolyn, would also be on the bus. My Grandmother knew Carolyn’s father because he worked for the Cotton Belt Railroad-- in the office next to my Grandmother.  She heard him talk about Carolyn’s birth; about the many doctors who evaluated her condition; about all the doctors agreeing that nothing could be done about Carolyn’s right leg being ten inches shorter than her left leg.

Regardless of where the bus stopped to pick-up Carolyn, the driver would leave his seat to reach down and help her climb the three very-steep-stairs onto the bus. She always smiled and said “thank you.”  And, the bus driver never started the bus until Carolyn was safely in her seat. When Carolyn stood to leave the bus, she always had a gentleman---either black or white—to help her down the challengingly-steep stairs.

 I remember times when the bus was so crowded-- people were standing in the aisles but—when Carolyn got on the bus---both young and old men alike, rushed to guide her to one of their seats. She always smiled; she never-failed to say “thank you”--- and she never lost the grace and dignity of a beautiful young lady.

No one seemed to notice her severe limp or the big, clumsy, built-up shoe she wore on her right foot. Everyone had—at some time---heard the sad story of the pretty little girl---an only child---who was born with a short leg-- a leg that never grew to match her other leg. Educators, in an attempt to shield Carolyn from the potential stares and ugly comments of other students, set up a schedule of home-learning for Carolyn that existed from the first grade until she earned enough credits to receive a high school diploma.

It wasn’t long before a popular department store on Pine Bluff’s Main Street offered Carolyn a job in their bookkeeping department.  Day after day, Carolyn rode the bus--to and from her job. In fact, she worked there for more than forty years. Eventually, Carolyn lost both parents, the department store closed--and, for the first time-ever-- Carolyn was alone. But, it appeared she already had a plan.

Traditionally, every city bus had a turn-around spot where the driver stopped to change the bus’s outside sign.  Next, the driver would turn the bus around and drive the same route--- in the opposite direction.

The turn-around spot for the East 2nd Bus was located in front of the town’s oldest nursing home. Carolyn lost no time re-locating to the nursing home.  The bus, the bus drivers, and all the passengers on the bus had—for years—been her best friends---her family. Now, every day, she toured the town on her personal bus.  She visited with the bus drivers and the passengers--and appeared-- completely-happy and content.

Unlike many people, Carolyn seemed to have found her place in this world. She found happiness with her familiar routine and familiar faces.  Best of all, she never lost her ability to smile and say “thank you.”