By Reba Phelps
One recent Friday while driving down I-49 enjoying Flashback Friday music on the radio, I heard the Salt-n-Pepper song, “Push-It.” Feeling nostalgic about the tune I turned it up as loud as the radio would go with factory installed speakers in an economy size company vehicle.
Every time I hear this song it brings me back to 9th grade year. I still wrestle with the same guilty feeling every single time I hear this song. In the grand scheme of things this song, by comparison to today’s music, is definitely rated PG. This song brings back a memory that is ingrained in the fabric of my childhood.
Obviously, it wasn’t because the lyrics have any type of sentimental value. It is the pure fact that our School Bus Driver, Judy Adkins, absolutely refused to let us hear this song. She wouldn’t merely just change the channel. She would turn it off so quickly we would still be singing along for a few seconds before we realized someone had put a halt to our entertainment.
Our morals were closely guarded on her watch and she took her job seriously.
If you had the pleasure of riding her bus then you knew that in the mornings we listened to Country Music and in the afternoons we listened to Pop Music. Sometimes, there was a compromise and we swapped the morning routine with the afternoon routine. The one thing that was never compromised was her letting us hear that vulgar song. The kids that rode her bus were more than just mere riders. We were family. She treated us like her own kids and kept our shenanigans to a minimum.
Her love for us was evident the one day that she dropped a student off and waited for the child to cross the road. As the child exited the bus and began to cross the road a vehicle came speeding over the rolling hill behind us and proceeded to pass us ignoring the “stop arms” that protruded from the side of the bus.
Mrs. Judy screamed the child’s name and blew her horn simultaneously to keep her from stepping out in front of the illegally traveling vehicle. The child stopped just in time. Once she knew she was safe she proceeded up the road where she found that the driver had stopped to apologize.
She accepted his apology but not before she really let him know how she felt about him endangering one of her children. The profanity that left her mouth earned her some street credit that day and we couldn’t help but chuckle once all was well. We all felt sufficiently protected in her care.
I will always feel like she saved the child’s life that day and all the while teaching us a valuable lesson of the pitfalls of being an inattentive driver.
As a teenager I boarded her bus so many times and was always greeted by her welcoming beautiful smile and big blue eyes. As riders, we knew if we saw those big blue eyes peering at the reflection in her rear view mirror someone was about to feel the wrath of Judy. Our respect for her ran deep. More often than not my siblings and I were the last ones to get off of her bus so we always had extra time to visit. She loved dropping us off and then stopping at her family’s house just down the road from our stop. Mrs. Judy was never short of good advice and stories to share about her family. She was ever so proud of her children.
Mrs. Judy passed away suddenly at the early age of 40. As I sit here writing this story at 43 it almost seems surreal that she was so young and didn’t get to meet her first grandchild who was born just two months after her passing. It wasn’t until recently that I learned that she dreamed of being a Veterinarian and had a passion for animals. She had this passion before it was the trendy thing to do. She chose the path of motherhood instead and never regretted a moment of it. She also chose the path to drive a school bus to mentor and love every child that stepped on her bus. She was more than a means of transportation to the children in her care, she was family.
My tenure on Mrs. Judy’s bus was contained to four years but the legacy of love, patience and kindness she left behind will last a lifetime. This same love and kindness is also evident in the two children she left behind as they raise their own children. I am not sure that she ever knew how much she was loved by her students but there is not a single time I do not think of her and the impact she had on me and my siblings when I visit Goldonna.
“My son, keep your father’s command and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Bind them always on your heart; fasten them around your neck.