“I want to run away,” I told Mama one day.
I rattled off just the preliminary complaints I had, starting with how this whole adulting thing is not all it’s cracked up to be. Apparently this season of life involves wondering why dirty dishes and laundry are constant and questioning where my money goes.
Mama didn’t feel like these were reasons enough to run away, probably because she is one of those odd people that actually enjoys doing laundry.
As an adult, I’ve thought about running away far more times than I did as a child.
In fact, there was only one time I ever considered running away. Mama remembered that little fact and was quite gleeful in reminding me.
“You remember what happened that time you did try to run away, don’t you?” she asked.
I sighed. I did.
I’m not sure what prompted my decision, but I am certain it was some horrible injustice, like Granny made me eat oyster stew for dinner or didn’t let me get a pair of shoes.
Whatever it was, I was done. I was leaving.
Problem was, I was around six at the time.
I didn’t have a backpack or anything large enough to pack my belongings in, so I improvised with a pillowcase.
I had to make sure I took one Granny wouldn’t fuss about; why, I’m not sure. I was running away so I wouldn’t be there to hear her complaints.
Since I wasn’t sure where I was going, I needed to make sure I had plenty of essentials.
I put what was left of a box of Little Debbies in the pillow case, a bag of circus peanuts — don’t judge me — and a bottle of Coke. It didn’t seem like enough, but I hoped it would get me to wherever I was going.
My plan, as poorly hatched out as it was, was to make it to my Uncle Frank and Aunt Winnie’s house. Surely they’d take me in. They loved me and Aunt Winnie always made me popcorn balls.
Problem was, I couldn’t remember how to get there or how far it was. When I rode with Granny or Mama to their house, it felt like it took forever. Would my short legs make it?
The more I thought about it, the more scared I became.
Did no one notice I was plotting my escape?
Any other time an adult would have been all up in my business, wanting to know why I was getting so many Little Debbies. This time, nothing.
It was like no one cared.
This just affirmed my decision. I lived in a house full of adults and no one cared, so I would be better off going to Uncle Frank’s and Aunt Winnie’s, and if I didn’t make it that far, maybe some kind, childless home would take me in.
I stomped off to the back steps and slammed the door loudly, giving them one more chance to realize my intentions.
I sat on the steps and waited. Maybe if they realized I wasn’t inside, they’d get worried.
I have no idea how long I sat there, but it felt like an eternity.
Finally, my grandfather came walking around the house.
“What are you doing out here, Lil ‘Un?” he asked.
“I’m running away,” I answered, sticking my chin out to show my defiance.
“Oh? How come?”
“I’m not loved here, so I am off to find some people that do care about me.”
Pop nodded slowly, studying me as he stood there in his overalls. “Do you know where you’re going?”
He nodded again and whistled. “That’s a long way on foot. What time you heading out?”
“In a minute.”
“Did you pack anything to take with you?”
I held up my pillowcase.
“Just a pillowcase? You’re traveling light, aren’t you?” He sat down on the steps beside me. “Can I see what you’ve got in there? I want to make sure you’ve got things you may need. It’s a tough, scary world and you need to be prepared.”
I took a deep breath and opened the pillowcase to show him my wares.
“Oatmeal Creme Pies are good,” he said, picking one up. “Those are my favorite.”
He ate it, and then ate the other one.
I watched wordlessly as he ate and drank all the provisions I had, as he asked me questions about my plans. What if I got lost? Had I asked Aunt Winnie if I could come?
What about school? Lots of things I hadn’t considered.
“Looks like I ate all your snacks. Do you have any other food?”
I shook my head, my heart sinking as I realized I hadn’t thought this out very well at all. Not only that, but the sun had gone down and it was getting dark.
“Well, Lil ‘Un,” he began. “It’s ‘bout nighttime. Since you don’t have any food and can’t see now, why don’t you come back in. It’s time for supper anyway. You can get your plans all squared away later.”
I was hungry.
“And sometimes, all you need is just a meal and a good night’s sleep to make everything feel a bit better.” He stood and took my tiny hand in his big, rough hewn, tanned hand and helped me up the stairs.
As far as I knew, he never told anyone my plans to run away. He just gave me a wink across the table as we sat down.
A few days later, he asked me if I had reconsidered my plans and I told him I had.
“I’m really glad to hear that,” he said, and went back to reading his paper.
Even now, I smile. Mama reminding me of that moment let me know, a lot of problems can be fixed with a meal and a good night’s sleep.
Sudie Crouch is an award-winning humor columnist residing in the North Georgia Mountains among the bears, deer, and possibly Sasquatch. You can connect with her on Facebook at Mama Said: A Collection of Wit, Humor, and Deep-Fried Wisdom. Her recently published book, ‘Mama Said: A Collection of Wit, Wisdom, and Deep-Fried Humor’ is available in paperback and Kindle download on Amazon.