Like most children, growing up I spent many of my days with a babysitter. While my brother and sister were off at school learning, I played with my dolls at Linda’s house. She was a very sweet lady, who lived a few houses down from ours. Because of the close friendship she had with my Mother and Step-father, they trusted her completely. They felt that she would be an excellent caretaker for me, and she was. That is, until the day I ran away.
At the time, we lived right on the outskirts of town in a small trailer home community. The area was quiet and the people were friendly, just as you would expect to find in a small southern town. A few miles away from there, was the convenience store that my parents owned, nestled among the old buildings of downtown. Having spent so much of my time at the store, I often thought of it as my second home. As a little girl, I took pride in the fact that I was able to ‘run the place’. I remember running carefree up and down the aisles and sneaking into the back of the store to watch my step-dad butcher and package meat. Then, there’s the unforgettable moment of knocking over the glass jar of cranberry sauce. I still remember the fear of impending punishment as my Mother turned the corner and saw the sticky red mess that covered the floor. However, I don’t recall the punishment itself, but I have not eaten cranberry sauce since, and for good reason I’m sure.
Without a doubt, my “running the place” is what convinced my parents to place me with Linda during the weekdays. I enjoyed my time at her house playing and watching cartoons. Most of all, I loved to curl up and take naps in the big comfortable chair that sat in her living room. On one particular day while I was napping, Linda decided it was a good time to go over and visit with her neighbor for a few minutes. Not wanting to wake me, she quietly left the house while I was asleep.
Shortly after Linda left, I woke up. The house was unusually quiet and I knew that something wasn’t right. I jumped off the chair and ran around the house looking for Linda, but she was no where in sight. Being five years old, naturally my imagination let loose and I began to invent a whole scenario in my mind of what may have happened to her. Within moments I had convinced myself that the “bad people” had come in and taken Linda away. Then, I suddenly remembered that I had been asleep in the chair and that the “bad people” had to have seen me. In absolute terror I thought, “They’re coming back for me!” With that, I decided I had to leave before the “bad people” returned. I had to get to my Mom.
I frantically ran out of the door and down the road, passing up all the trailer homes that lined the street, including my own. As I approached the end of the community I had to make a choice. There before was a two lane highway. Was I to go left or right? I knew without a doubt that my parent’s convenience store was to the left. So, I made the turn and began heading down the two lane highway that led into town. Hugging the shoulder of the highway, I fearfully watched as the cars quickly approached me from both directions. With each passing car, I ducked down and hid in the ditch, terrified that one of the vehicles would be driven by the “bad people”.
For a five year old, I was making good time and I couldn’t wait to be in the safety of my Mom’s arms. Just as I was thinking of how much I wanted to see her, another car approached me. I dove into the ditch and waited for it to pass. Within seconds it was gone, so I eased up out of the ditch again only to see that another car was heading my way. Diving into the ditch again, I heard the car come to a stop. My heart was racing as I thought to myself, “It’s the bad people!” Terrified, I stayed as quiet and still as possible.
Within moments, I heard a voice come from the car. It was a woman’s voice. Naively, I decided that it couldn’t be the “bad people”, because bad people were only men. Comforted by the woman’s kind voice, I slowly raised my head and climbed up the side of the ditch just enough to where I could see her. She stuck her head out of the window and calmly asked me where I was going. “To my Mommy at Jiffy Market”, I nervously told her. She said that she knew my Mom and where the store was. Then, she offered to drive me there. I paused for a moment and thought to myself, “If I don’t go with her, then the bad people will get me.” With little hesitance, I accepted her offer and got into the car.
The nice woman kept her word and before long we were pulling up to the convenience store. As soon as her car was parked, I jumped out and ran inside. My Mom was standing behind the counter when I came in. Shaking like a leaf and with tears gushing, I tightly grabbed onto her. Meanwhile, my Mom was trying to figure out why the woman had driven me there. She explained to my Mom how she had found me walking down the highway. Still confused, my Mom worked to calm me down so that I could tell her what had happened. After a while, I was finally able to catch my breath and tell her. I told her of how I woke up and Linda was gone. With fear, I told her that the “bad people” had taken Linda and they were going to come back for me, and that’s why I left.
Although I was now safe, I was afraid for Linda and what was happening to her. As soon as I was done telling my Mom the story, she ran over to the phone and called Linda. A couple of rings later, she answered. After a short phone discussion, my Mom informed that Linda wasn’t taken by the ‘bad people’. Instead, she had simply gone next door. So, while I was running down the highway, dodging cars and jumping into ditches, Linda had been enjoying a nice cup of coffee with a friend.