We were living in Arizona and it was my first year of middle school. Like the rest of my classmates, I was trying desperately to figure out where I fit in. My best friend and neighbor, Kim was already a student at Mountainside Middle School, but there was one little caveat. She was an eighth grader and I was a seventh grader and this of course meant that we didn’t have any classes together. So, the only time I got to spend with Kim as far as school was concerned was on the bus. Adding insult to injury, there was an unspoken rule on the buses that I would quickly learn. Seventh graders were NOT allowed to sit in the back of the bus. That was eighth-grade territory and any seventh grader who dared to challenge the system was in for a world of hurt. Naturally, I found this to be ridiculous and unfair. I was determined to sit with my friends and I wasn’t about to let some eighth-grade bullies keep me in fear.
We claimed our seats toward the back of the bus and for a moment I thought we were getting away with it. But boy, was I was wrong! A few minutes later the eighth-grade bullies began throwing crumpled up paper at me and the pens and pencils followed. The insults started flying and before I knew it, a can of orange crush was hurling my way. Side note: To this day I HATE orange crush soda for this very reason! I sat quietly, taking the abuse until I was on the verge of tears. Eventually, when I felt completely defeated and sticky with orange crush, my pride and I moved toward the front of the bus. I got off the bus a stop early and walked the rest of the way home in tears.
My daddy was living in Seattle, but I knew he was always just a phone call away. So I called him when I got home and I remember our conversation like it was yesterday. He said, “When life gives you rain, bring on the thunder baby doll”. He told me that there were going to be times in my life when I was going to have to stand up for myself or people would walk all over me and if I believed in something, I had to be willing to defend it. We talked about how I’d handle the situation the next day and the plan was set in motion. I would sit where I wanted on the bus and when the bullying started I would stand up, throw my backpack down and say “ If you’ve got a problem, we can handle it right now”. I would stand up for myself and it would be a character building experience.
The next day was one of the most nerve-wracking of my life and the dialog in my head went something like this “Am I really going to do this? What if they wanna fight me? I’m a peaceful person! ” I was out numbered and I would definitely be opening a can of worms that would be hard to contain once turned loose. But my daddy’s words stood with me all day “Bring on the thunder baby doll. You gotta stand up for yourself!” I knew what I had to do and I was prepared to face the consequences. When my last class of the day let out, Kim and I made our way to the bus. Kim, knowing what I had up my sleeve, tried her best to talk me out of it “Let's just sit in the front! It’s not worth it” she said, but I wasn’t backing down. It was worth it to me.
With sweaty palms and a racing heart we boarded the bus and made our way to the back. Without delay, the bullying began and just like my daddy had coached me to do I stood up, threw my Jansport backpack down and with a booming voice proclaimed “WE’RE GONNA HANDLE THIS RIGHT NOW!!!”. Just like that, I was kicked off the bus. Yep, that's right, I got kicked off and sent to the school office where they would call my mom. As I sat in the school office waiting for my mom, I felt about ten feet tall and bulletproof. I'd stood up for myself and I may have been kicked off the bus, but it still felt like a victory to me.
When I finally saw my mom walking down the school hallway she was wearing her scrubs and a look that said: You are in deep trouble little girl. My mom was a nurse practitioner and she had to leave work in the labor and delivery unit to come pick me up. All she had been told was that I had started a fight and was kicked off the bus. So she was mad and understandably so. The office administrators gave her their account of what had unfolded on the bus that afternoon, never bothering to ask me my side of the story. When we stepped out of the office I burst into tears as I told my mom what happened and the look on her face changed from “my mom the disciplinarian” to “protective mama bear”. She gave me a big hug as I sobbed my way through the story and then immediately marched back into the school office to read them the riot act.
When I called my daddy to fill him in on the events of the day, he was proud and I could hear it in his voice. It was a defining moment in my life, one that earned me the nickname Little Thunder. To this day my daddy will still say “ Here comes Little Thunder” when I come to him with a situation that I find to be unjust. I bring on the thunder when life brings on the rain because my mom and dad taught me not to be afraid to make some noise when it comes time to stand for my beliefs.
Last week when I told this story to my friend Jeanie, she excitedly offered the idea that someday, when I have a tour bus, it can be called Little Thunder... and I can sit ANYWHERE I want!
Thanks for reading. I'll see ya at the Opry!