Running away


The only time I remember running away from home was when I was 6. I don't remember exactly what prompted it, but it was probably something to do with cleaning my room, since I announced that I was going to live with Oscar in his trash can (already a drama queen!). I put a few belongings into a scarf and tied it to a broomstick, the way I'd seen hobos do in cartoons, and flounced off with a toss of my butt-length hair.

My mother remained very serious about the whole thing (although that was probably because she was desperately trying not to laugh). She said she understood and respected my decision, and that if I ever changed my mind I was always welcome to come home. She stood on the front porch and waved at me as I struck out on my own.

As I crossed the yard and strolled down the street, head held high, I was overwhelmed with the heady thrill of freedom. Finally, I could live as I pleased! I would find people who would love me even if I didn't pick up my clothes or make my bed. Who wanted to waste time on boring stuff like that? It was stupid.

By the time I was halfway down our block, though, I was already having second thoughts. Since my most precious belongings were all books, my makeshift luggage was heavy. The broomstick dug into my shoulder, and was so long I kept knocking it with my knee. This in turn jostled the clumsily tied bundle, which slid down the stick until the scarf and its contents bumped against my back with every step. It was nearing noon on a summer day, which in St. Louis almost always means hot and humid.

This running away thing was proving to be harder than I'd thought.

I'd occasionally sneak a glance over my shoulder to see whether my mom was still watching. Every time I turned around, she'd wave encouragingly. My pride wouldn't let me show that I was already wavering, so each time I'd jut out my chin and try to keep up a brisk pace (no mean feat in these circumstances).

When I was about two-thirds of the way down the street, I looked back and found the porch empty.

I was miffed. Clearly, she really didn't care at all! Here I was, off in search of Sesame Street (which I vaguely assumed was somewhere in California, and when I got to the end of our street I'd have to decide which way to turn, and I knew that meant I had to figure out which direction was west, which was a little confusing) and she had just gone back into the house as though nothing had happened. It was true, they really didn't want me there, and I was doing the right thing by leaving.

On the other hand, I was kind of hungry.

My steps slowed. Perhaps I'd rushed out of the house a little too quickly. Surely it made more sense to have a good hearty meal before a long journey. For one thing, I had no idea when I'd manage to eat again: although I'd been known to eat paper on occasion, I doubted my books would be enough to keep up my energy for a long trip. I hadn't thought to pack any food, and I didn't have any money.

I wasn't quite to the end of our street when I decided to turn back. Only temporarily, of course, just long enough to get a little more organized than my hasty-but-theatrical exit had allowed. When I walked in through the front door, dropping my broomstick unceremoniously and spilling books (and a couple of barrettes, because even fugitives like to have pretty hair) onto the living room floor, my mother didn't blink an eye.
"Did you forget something?" she inquired politely.

I haughtily explained that I was only back because I had decided it was better to leave after lunch rather than before. She agreed that it seemed a smarter choice, and asked me what kind of sandwich I wanted.
I'd forgotten all about my plan before I'd even finished my pimiento cheese.