When I was seven, I ran away from home. I can’t recall the reason but I’m sure it was paramount. With tears in my eyes I went to my room and packed my things. I stuffed my pillowcase with the essentials for a kid to make it on the streets of a small rural town in Nebraska; my Cabbage Patch Kid, a pair of underwear, and a small stack of $2 bills that I managed to extract from my piggy bank. I put on my roller skates and headed down Blaine Street, a bit disoriented from my emotional state. Once I got my bearings I knew exactly where I would go, Grandpa and Grandma Rager’s house. A few blocks into my manic escape, I noticed I was being trailed by a Jeep Wagoneer with my mom and my brother following my every move. To this day I still recall them laughing but that detail continues to be up for debate. Regardless, my independence was in sight and I skated faster to avoid their pursuit. I arrived at Grandpa and Grandma’s back door and rang the doorbell. No answer. I opened the screen door and knocked as loud as I could with my little fist. Not a peep from inside. I tried the door knob and it was locked. I never knew my Grandparents to lock the door. Frankly, it was unusual for them to go anywhere.
I felt defeated. Where else could I possibly go?
The Jeep Wagoneer slowly crawled down the gravel alley and parked by Grandpa’s garage. I knew it was over. My attempt at independence lasted only a few short blocks. I skated over to the car and got in the backseat. Words were not exchanged.
The next time I saw Grandpa I told him about my journey. He gave me a hug and apologized for not being there when I needed him. He told me that if I ran away again I should call beforehand. Good advice, I guess.
One of the things I enjoy about being back in Nebraska is that I’m reminded of things from my childhood.
The farm I grew up on is a short drive out of town…
The fort my parents had built for my brother and me when we moved into town still remains in our old backyard…
The City Auditorium where I would roller skate on winter weekends continues to be a hub for the community…
And my parent’s basement is filled with boxes that hold gems from my youth.
While rummaging through a few things recently I came across something truly iconic from my past.
It’s a deck of “Old Maid” cards that belonged to my Grandpa Rager…
At first glance, they seem very retro, very 1970’s. The front resembles a product well suited for a gift shop at a cheesy western themed casino in Vegas: “The Glitter Gultch” perhaps? The characters on the flip side definitely date the deck:
Such COOL images!
The thing I love the most about this deck of cards is the Old Maid herself…
When my cousins and I would play this game with Grandpa he always managed to give us a fighting chance. He intentionally bent the Old Maid card in half, assuring we would always know NOT to pick that particular card. That was his style…
And every time we would win, he would be left with the Old Maid in hand with an expression of surprise. He always made us seem like we were on top of the world.
The other day I took a few minutes to retrace my runaway route to my Grandparent’s house. That’s the funny thing about recalling our youth; all those little moments ended up shaping who we are. At my core, I’m probably not too different than that seven year old that didn’t fear going out into the world by himself. And the world doesn’t seem so scary when you know there is someone there waiting for you (or trailing you to make sure you get there safe and sound).
Side note: When I got home after my failed attempt of running away, I left a note on Mom’s pillow. I found that too:
I LOVE YOU!
I am sorry [that]
I am so [stupid]
but I’ll try to
be smart for you.
have a kiss?
Clearly I had a solid grasp of the power of a guilt trip (thanks to my Irish Catholic mom herself) but that’s another post…