Hunter Levinsohn

I WAS ON THE BUS

One summer when I was a very little girl of five or six I spent a couple of days in Augusta, Georgia with my auntie. I carried out some very interesting scientific experiments during this visit which steered me in the direction of my current vocation but that is not what this story is about. When the visit ended my auntie put me on a big bus to travel from Augusta, Georgia to Johnston, South Carolina where my grandparents lived. I was to travel alone. Now it was at most a journey of 40 miles but I had never traveled by myself before and it was a big occasion; I donít specifically remember but I was probably somewhat nervous.

On the day I was to leave my auntie put out my best dress for me to wear because this was still in the era that one wore oneís nicest clothes when one traveled. I put on a pale lavender dress that my auntie had smocked for me and matching lavender socks and shiny black patent leather Mary Janes. I am sure that I was carrying a little black patent leather purse and I may even have been wearing a straw hat.

When it was time to get on the bus, my auntie put me on the very front seat of the big empty bus, just behind the driver on the opposite side. My auntie told me good bye and was gone and the bus roared off. And there I was a nervous little girl with nothing to do and an untold amount of time to do it in. This was long before the day when one would have thought of equipping a child with snacks and things to do while traveling. Iím sure that my auntie told the bus driver where I was going but she would not have thought to tell me how long it would take or any details about the trip. And I donít think that it would have occurred to her that the time to travel 40 miles would have seemed vast to a child.

I am certain that I sat there very prim and properly for a very short time before my boredom got the best of me and I began searching around for something to do within the confines of my seat. I am sure that I had been told not to get out of my seat and I knew that I had to keep a sharp watch out for my mother. I vaguely remember that one of the activities of the visit had been toenail painting and perhaps I just wanted to look at my painted toenails but eventually I took off my socks and shoes and began playing with my feet.

And that, when the big bus door opened and my mother stepped up to greet me, was exactly what I was doing. She didnít even say hello, she was so mortified and embarrassed, she simply whipped me and my things together and off the bus, all the time giving my gross offense and character flaw full attention and full voice: " A BIG GIRL LIKE YOU TAKING OFF YOUR SHOES AND SOCKS AND PLAYING WITH YOUR FEET IN PUBLIC!" It was pretty clear to me that I had committed a capital offense and brought the family down with me. And in that instant my feet which had been normal little girl size grew into these huge and ungainly appendages which I did everything within my power, first consciously, and over the years unconsciously, to hide from everyone. I never had shoes that would cause anyone to look down and notice my f--t. Although I remember one pair of gold lame tennis shoes in college that I could not resist, I wore shoes exactly like everyone elseís throughout my teens, twenties and into my thirties to cleverly disguise my f--t.

And then one magic day Bryant Holsenbeck came by my house to deliver some slides for me to take to a mutual friend. At the time I didnít know Bryant well at all. She came by and came in to tell me something I needed to pass on to Barbara or just to chat and exchange pleasantries. And I remember looking down at her feet as she sat on my couch and seeing that she was wearing these wonderful bright pink ballet type slippers and that they were so beautiful and that I loved being able to distinguish her feet from the rest of her body. And thus was my latent, long repressed love for shoes awakened. Bryant, I am eternally grateful! I have been making up for lost time ever since!

It takes a long time to figure out as an adult how things that happened in your childhood affected who you have become. When I put the pieces of this memory together after many years, my first response was to be angry with my mother for making me feel so humiliated and then I realized that as my parentsí second child I had always been unconventional and loose in a tight and conventional time and that throughout my childhood I continually embarrassed both of my parents who were brought up by Victorian-era parents. And I learned once again that there is very little black and white in this mostly gray world.

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