Monday, April 27, 2009

Memory Monday: Running Away

This was originally meant to be “My Earliest Memories,” but as it turns out, a lot of those memories involve Great Escapes.

My career as an escape artist must have started soon after I learned how to walk. I remember when we lived in our house in Cabazon, California (talk about desolate…) that I crawled out of my crib one day. I must have managed to do it without cracking my skull open. If my memory does not deceive me, the incentive was to get to my fluffy new robe, which was white and had a pocket into which I could slip the first present I ever remember getting – a box of eight Crayola crayons. New, pointy crayons with that new crayon smell.

Later, when we had moved to Lankershim Street in Highland for the first time, I must have hit that toddler age when I liked to do something naughty over and over again – and that was to escape out the front gate (no challenge; it was usually open) and start running off down the street. Of these attempts I do not actually have a direct memory, but I remember my mother and my Uncle Bill telling the story many times of how I would shoot out the front and then head out as fast as my legs would carry me until long-legged Uncle Bill would catch up to me in a few strides. He would then pick me up, with my short legs still pumping the air, and I would giggle insanely at how daring I had been and how useless his efforts at keeping me in the yard would be. I believe my older brother Don also indulged me in this game a few times.

The final escape effort I remember must have taken place when I was four or five, not too long before I started school. My mother had taken me with her when she went downtown to pay bills (does anyone else remember bills being taken care of this way, instead of through checks sent by mail?). We must have gone into the office to pay the utility bill and it must have been an awfully boring place. My scheme was to quietly duck out the door, look around, and then sneak back in. But I did something stupid. As I left, I did not look back to get a picture in my mind of what the door looked like. I don’t think I got very far before I realized that I hadn’t a clue how to get back to my mother. The next part is a bit fuzzy, but since I was terribly shy at that age, I must not have gone to ask an adult for help; rather, I suspect that the kind lady in the movie theater office must have noticed me looking frightened and lost. I do remember her picking me up and putting me on the counter and feeding me Jujubes. Things were looking up. Someone must have been sent to locate my mother, because she showed up shortly afterwards. That’s where the memory ends, because the memory of those delicious Jujubes have just erased everything else.

That was probably the last Great Escape. I gradually became aware that I did not have the greatest sense of direction, and this inhibited my adventurous spirit for a number of years. I was actually over thirty years old before I learned how to drive, so intimidated was I at the prospect of being able to find my way around. But shortly after learning how to drive (you can find the description at The Graveyard Rabbit of Northern Virginia – it happened in a graveyard!), I made a great discovery: maps are our friends. No, not TomTom, or Garmin, or any of those things. Maps.

So now my middle-aged mind wanders to … escapes. Not Great Escapes. Not total escapes from real life and real responsibilities. But little escapes. Escapes to small, unpretentious towns … towns I have never been to before … like the towns my ancestors lived in.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention, for these escapes, I plan on having my husband accompany me. He has a great sense of direction. And he likes to run away, too.


  1. Greta, I love your Memory Monday post they are so much fun. You may have been shy but you were brave, I was VERY shy but never brave enough to leave my mother's side to explore. I enjoyed your post about learning to drive. I even took my daughter to a cemetery near us to drive a little, she is so afraid of learning to drive. She turned 18 in Jan. She will start college in the fall and that will be downtown and she plans to live at home so as her dad and I see it she really needs to learn to drive SOON!

  2. Hi Harriet,

    My older daughter turned 19 in January and is finishing up her freshman year in college. Thank goodness she did finally learn to drive, but she didn't get her license until her senior year in high school, unlike most of her friends.

    I missed out on taking Driver's Ed in high school, then didn't need to drive and couldn't afford a car anyway through graduate school, then just dragged my feet after that.

    Good luck to your daughter with the driving!

  3. Greta-I so enjoyed this post-very well written-and entertaining. You were quite the dare devil-running away every chance you got. I was too scared to get far away from Momma's skirts at that age.

  4. Thanks, Tipper. I don't know what it was that made me think escaping was so much fun. It certainly didn't presage any teenage rebelliousness.

  5. Greta, love this post...There must be something about being shy yet adventurist because I, too, was a shy but Great Escapist. I know I gave my mother more than a few grey hairs. [My kids have paid me back, tho'.] I started at age 2! I'm just so-so shy now, but I still love to escape!