From time to time I write about non-real estate related things. This is one of those times.
"Why are you three so dressed up?"
That was the question I asked of my three younger siblings as they stood curbside, with a look of expectation of something big.
"If we ride the joy bus 8 weeks in a row we win a denim bible!" said Chop.
OK. This requires more than one explanation.
First- I have six siblings. The first four of us were born in a four-year period. Then there was a seven-year gap and the next three were born in a three-year span.
It was if we were part of a blended family- yet all related.
To be honest- the trailing three were angels. So, of course, they would be candidates for evening Bible worship. Willing candidates, at that.
But they were also highly motivated- if there was something to be won they wanted in on the action.
"Come with!" pleaded Chop.
Now. Here's the second explanation. Our youngest sister is named Suzanne. This is a name that my mom chose under one condition: that we all call her Suzanne and not any other variation.
In short order she was called Suzy, then Suey, then Chop Suey, then Chopper. And finally Chop.
This was not a case of singling out. Almost nobody in the family has escaped with his or her original name. But I digress.
On the topic of religion, I guess you could say that our family had wandered in the wilderness. Once devout, we had started to grow less so.
It's hard to plant spiritual roots when you're a part of the military world.
We had moved so many times that we typically settled on whichever church was closest, or which one had the most entertaining minister, or the best sports team.
My brother and I weren't misfits but we had become worn out by the faith battles.
It would take more than a promise of fancy Bible coverings to get me to ride the joy bus the 12 miles from Sheppard Air Force Base to Burkburnett, Texas.
My older brother was in agreement with me on this. So, we went back to our basketball game as our younger sibling waited with eagerness for the joy bus to arrive.
You could hear the church bus before you ever saw it.
It was packed with kids mostly. They would scream-sing with total devotion and the bus would rock and bounce as if the tires were mismatched.
The bus driver was Brother Elzy. I knew him from the school dances. He would brush back the couples who snuggled up too much during the slow dances.
I had heard that he carried a Bible that he used as a measuring tool. If your bodies were less than the width of holy scripture then you were about the devil's business and he would exhort you to back off.
I never witnessed this but I wouldn't find it hard to believe.
The joy bus rumbled to a stop in front of the house, then made a steam-powered hissing sound as the double doors opened.
My younger brother and two sisters bounded aboard as the kids sang, "Hello David! Helloo David, Helllooooo Daaaavid, we're-glad-you-rode-our-bus!!"
This song was repeated for Lisa and then for Suzy.
Brother Elzy got off the bus and asked my brother and I if we would join them.
My brother was a Senior in High School and I was a Sophmore.
Fortunately, we were able to decline the invitation on account of the fact we wearing shorts and t-shirts, fitting attire as we spent each evening playing basketball in the front driveway.
"The Lord doesn't care about your attire my young brothers. It's what's in your heart that counts." Replied brother Elzy.
Dismantled by this comeback, my brother came closer to telling the truth. "We don't want anyone singing at us."
"Oh, they won't sing at you. The greeting songs are for the younger folks."
We succumbed to the pressure and agreed to be ready the next time.
A week passes quickly when you're dreading something.
My brother and I begrudgingly dressed for the night of worship and we were sure to be bored and humiliated by the experience.
"Eight trips and that denim Bible is yours!" exclaimed my younger brother- who was three weeks shy of his prize earning.
"I wish I could be with you soooo bad."
For some long forgotten reason, the younger kids had other plans.
We would be boarding the joy bus alone this evening.
We stood at the curb, heard the distant singing of young angels and awaited the pending greetings of the little songbirds.
My brother climbed aboard first and an exuberant cherub chimed, "HELLO GARY, HEhh..." but the rest of the bus gave a loud "Shush!"
Evidently Brother Elzy had honored our request.
We were the grown-up boys who didn't want to be sung at. The kids had been forewarned, but a six-year-old girl, who couldn't have been more adorable wasn't, evidently, the most attentive listener.
We walked the long sad journey to the back of the bus.
I never felt like a bigger heathen in my life.
We rode the remainder of our journey in silence.
The kids peered at us with empathy- showing love for the sinners.
It was easy to avoid the joy bus.
Our plan was thus- we'd be playing basketball.
We'd hear the bus.
We'd hide behind the Oleander bushes that offered lush coverage.
Once the bus departed we'd be back to dribbling and trash-talking basketball bliss.
One evening the bus must have been in stealth mode.
We were less prepared because our siblings were elsewhere.
Nearly too late, we heard the singing and raced to the Oleanders.
Dad had trimmed them back earlier that day.
We hid behind the thin branches, looking very much like two irredeemable sinners.
Brother Elzy slowed the bus to a crawl, opened the doors and proclaimed, "You can hide from the church bus. but you can't hide from the Lord!"
My brother turned to me and said, "busted. busted by the joy bus."