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Photo via forum.xcitefun.net

     It was a beautiful Spring day in Colorado, and I had just helped Mom bake cookies. I was tall enough and old enough that I could reach the counters just fine, so I helped stir in the ingredients with a wooden spoon. I loved to taste the difference the vanilla added to the premature dough, but my favorite part of baking cookies was (of course) licking off the beaters. Mom made me wait until she said I could have them and then I’d pinch my pointer finger and thumb together, and run them up the side of the beater. The dough would pile up on my fingers, but I couldn’t wait to taste it. Into my mouth it went.

Mom used to set aside a Dixie brand cup of dough, just for her. Dad would smell the cookies in the oven, walk by the kitchen, and sneak a spoonful of dough out of the Dixie cup. Then he’d go back to his office, knowing full well what he’d just done. Mom ignored the dough theft as we laughed and giggled and sang and loved each other.  

For some reason that evening, I got upset. Knowing me, I probably did something wrong and subsequently got in trouble. In fact, I was probably only mad that I had been caught, not that I had done something wrong. I was a mad 9-year-old sitting in my room, brooding, trying to decide what type of reaction I would get if I ran away for a few days. I was reminded of the time my sister and her friend ran away from our home in New York. At the time, we lived in a small town south of Rochester, where the houses were spread far apart with acres of land.  The next day was rocket-launching day in fifth-grade Science class. My sister and her friend were in the side yard painting their cardboard rockets, when they ran out of spray paint. It was Sunday, and in our house, we didn’shop on Sundays. The girls got mad that they couldn’t buy more paint, so they ran away as the sun was setting behind the fields.

They disappeared for a few hours, and my parents really started to worry. Fortunately for them, an old man and his wife found the girls, and when they started to cry that they were lost and scared, they brought them back home.

What was so significant about my sister running away was that my parents allowed it (not thinking they would go far) to teach them a lesson. There is even a picture in our family photo album of the two girls with their arms around each other, while simultaneously hanging onto their hiking backpacks, and hand-carved walking sticks. They were wearing acid-washed cut-off shorts, and hiking shoes. The photo was snapped right before they took off on their “journey” of running away from home.

No one thought they would go far. In fact, I personally didn’t think they’d go much farther than the mile-long driveway we had. We are not athletes in our family, and my sister would hate a long, strenuous journey. So I didn’t think it would be a big deal. But the girls did go far, and because they went far, because they were lost, and because strangers returned the two girls home, it was a big deal. The reaction my sister got from my parents was huge and memorable. She was loved and hugged and kissed (and grounded) when she returned, and the house was full of “We’re so glad you are ok,” and “We missed you,” and “Please don’t ever do that again, we were so scared.” The neighbors who had gathered to help look for the girls were relieved, and sent home to their awaiting families.

~

As I recalled my sister’s great escape, I decided that I, too, would run away. I would teach my mom and dad a lesson, and then I would be loved and hugged and kissed on when I got home.

I quickly shoved my teddy bear in my black backpack, rolled up some socks, and a blanket on which to lay. I had been hiding a pack of cinnamon Extra gum in my sock drawer, and I shoved that in there, too. In went my porcelain ballerina from my Grandma, and my silver spoon “collection” (though I only had a few states’ spoons). I tied up my tennis shoes, and put on my neon pink/orange/green reflective wind-breaker, and headed out through the kitchen to the back door. I realized at that point, that I might get hungry while away, and I stuck a few cans of soup and a few cans of tuna fish in my back pack.

Quietly, I closed the back door behind me, and the mildly chilly air swept across my face as I turned to leave my home for the last time ever. Or so I thought. I got a few steps away, and went back to get the can opener.

Photo via frontrangelandscape.com

My plan was to spend the night under the massive evergreen tree across the street. It was getting dark, and I didn’t want to go too far the first night. Also, I wanted to watch the search party gather and hear my name called as they looked for me.

The tree was tall, and had long, luscious arms that hung down so low, they gently swept the ground. It was a perfect place to hide, where I could watch my family start their search for me. I just hoped that my neighbor didn’t notice my reflective wind-breaker, and ruin my plan.

My plan worked. No one spotted me under the tree. I spent what seemed like a few months -in all actuality, it was probably closer to about one and a half hours- under the tree, and kept thinking, “At any moment, they will start the search party. I will see them walk outside with their flashlights, and I will hear them call my name.” I stared at my invitingly lit-up house. Where was my family? Why was no one looking for me?

I didn’t give up. I pulled out my spoon collection, polishing each one with my extra socks. I chewed my cinnamon gum, and rubbed each silver wrapper with my fingers until the silver part fell off. My teddy bear sat on my lap, and I sang a song and made the ballerina dance. Soon, I grew bored that no one was looking for me yet. I was certain this was not how I remembered my sister’s experience when she ran away from home.

I decided it would be best if I returned home for the night. I didn’t want to admit to myself that I was defeated, but I gathered up my things, and counted to 100, just in case the search party commenced. 1…2…3…55…56…57…98…99…100… no search party.

Pushing the front door open, I stomped my feet clean as hard and loud as I could. Mom looked up from the couch, her current sewing project in her lap. “Oh, there you are sweetheart,” she said happily. “I ran away.” I declared as angrily as possible. She asked me why, and invited me to sit by her on the couch. I told her why, and also that I was mad no one came looking for me. She smiled and said to me, simply this: “I thought you were in your room.”

Now, I know my mom well, and I know that she was most likely aware of where I was the entire time I was gone. When I was even younger, she would catch me doing something bad, (yes, I was always in trouble) and then she’d tell me she caught me with the eyes in the back of her head. One day, as I brushed her pretty brown hair, I peeked around and looked, but didn’t see the extra set of eyes. Even still, she was super-mom, and always knew the whereabouts of her children.

So even though I planned the run-away to be a lesson for my mom and dad, the lesson was really on me. I liked my family and was loved at home, and I didn’t really want to leave.

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