The Not So Great Escape
I was raised in a turn-of-the-century, Queen Anne Victorian home which sounds nice, but this house was in dire need of repair. There was a cornerstone on the house that I admired and I liked the woodwork, the sunbursts and spindles and the spiral staircase and the stained glass windows, but they were nearly the only things I admired.
The cornerstone read, "1874, Captain, John Blackwell". We moved into the house when I was four years old. It was then, my parents made the decision to move from a perfectly nice bungalow into a monstrous home with hardly enough furniture to fill the rooms.
For nearly a week, I pleaded with my parents to move back “home”. Nothing I said seemed to matter. They kept ignoring me and saying things they believed were enough to convince me the big gray house was our home. I plotted, with my brothers, John and George, the great escape plan. John backed out at the last minute, he said he didn't care if he was "chicken", but George was with me. Finally, I thought I’d convinced my brother, George, age three, to join me in the escape.
It was easy to plan the escape; there was an "up" stairs which was the main staircase, from the front door, that spiraled upward to the third floor. Then there was the "down" stairs which was meant to access the kitchen area.
We had just enough time (before bedtime) to practice. First, we would "act" like we were going to bed, then we would continue down the kitchen steps and go out the back door. No one would notice. At three and four, my brother and I were certain we’d make it to our grandmother's home before dark and without the aid of an adult.
We were quick and silent and knew how to move on the steps so the stairs would not squeak.I knew we didn't need to pack much, maybe some crackers to eat on the way to our grandmother's house. I was pretty sure I knew the way. I had some money saved, a dime and four pennies, that should be enough to buy milk or ice-cream from the dairy, I thought.
At this age, my brother and I were not allowed much freedom. We were not allowed to leave the yard, let alone cross the street. But we had an advantage. Every time we were in the car, we played a game we made up, called "How close are we to home?” John and George and I would give each other clues, and we would look for signs. Funny shaped trees, buildings and things we memorized, like the church steeple. Even the graveyard became a "marker" so we felt confident, knowing our landmarks.
We began our journey, walking all the way down Main Street. When we neared the end, I kept looking for the sign that read, “Market Street” and then I would look for Front Street. Once there, I knew we had to walk to the end and turn left. (Only I didn't know it was called left. I called it, "that way" and pointed the direction.)
We had only walked a few blocks before George started complaining and I really didn't think too much of his whining, so I called him a baby, which made him cry louder. That was a mistake, so I had to comfort him so he would stop fussing.
"Brother" I thought, "I should have made John come with us, at least he wouldn't be crying". George was being difficult. He said “we had walked too far” and just when I thought I couldn't stand the fuss any longer, I looked up and saw it. One of our landmarks!
"Look, George, stop your crying. It is Larimore's Dairy!" I said, feeling pleased with my ability to find the right roads. I continued, "Now, it is only a couple blocks and we will be at Mommom’s. Everything will be okay, do you believe me now?" I asked.
George stopped crying and said, "How do you know?" I pointed toward the roof of the building, on the opposite corner and said, "Look it is the giant milk bottle! Don't you remember it?" George smiled and said, "Yes!"
We held hands and walked faster because we knew we were getting close. We were even laughing and having a good time, even though it was starting to get a little dark. All of a sudden there was a car slowing down on the road behind us.
I was suspicious right away. We knew about "bad guys" from television. But, when I looked behind and saw a police car my heart began to pound. I said, "George, I think they are going to try and take us, let's run!"
I started to grab his hand, but someone rolled the car window down and a woman stuck her head out and called my name. I looked at her. I knew I did not know who she was. How did she know my name, I wondered? The two police men were asking our names, where we were going, and how old we were. George offered his name and I told them boldly we were going to our grandmother's house and we were almost there.
The woman smiled and said they would give us a ride. I noticed she was talking in the phony voices grownups use when they speak to children and I didn't think too much of that either. Well, her distraction gave the police officers enough time to get out of the car and walk toward us, they were smiling and telling us it would soon be dark and they wanted us to be safe.
They picked us up and put us forcefully in the back seat of the police car with the woman. She was pretty scary. She had red lipstick and her hair was black and smelled like hairspray and perfume and she had on a black, animal fur coat. I thought she looked like the bad women on television, the "really mean" ones.
My brother was crying his eyes out at this point, and I didn't want to look at her anyway, so I tried to comfort him. The policeman started the car and I told George, "It is okay, they are police officers. They are just going to take us to grandmother’s house."
Then they did something really stupid. They drove past the street our grandmother lived on. Pointing toward my grandmother's house, I said, "Hey, you just passed her street! That's her house, right there!" And the short, fat police officer said, "We know honey, we are going another way because it is shorter." That satisfied me for about two minutes then I knew when I saw the First Baptist Church, the way they were going wasn't shorter at all. I said, "This isn't right, it is not the right way."
George started repeating, everything, he said. "It’s not the right way. It’s not the right way." "You better turn this car around now!”, I demanded. “My grandmother lives on Arch Street." Just as soon as I had said that, George started wailing even louder. The woman kept trying to hug us and I pushed her off of me, and told her to keep her hands off of my brother. Then I told George to stop crying. I was angry and scared but I didn’t want any one to know.
These guys and that "bad" woman were probably kidnapping us, I thought. I told George to start screaming and rolled the window down and began to yell, "These people are stealing us! Help, help, these people are stealing us, we are not their kids!" The woman was angry and told us to “shut up and stop yelling”. I said, "No! Keep yelling, George! Yell loud that’s what you have to do!" Again, I stuck my head out of the window and yelled, "These people are stealing us, help!"
With that, the police officer, on the passenger's side, reached back, grabbed me by the shoulder, and put his hand over my mouth. The woman grabbed George and pulled him into her lap and they rolled the car window up. I was furious. I started kicking and didn't care who got hurt. I kicked the "bad” woman a couple of times on her legs.
I was so angry, I didn't notice we were pulling up in front of our “home". The officer said, "When I take my hand away you are not going to scream are you?" I shook my head no. George was still crying. I said, "Look George, we are home. They brought us home anyway." We had to sit in the police car, by ourselves, while the adults were talking. It seemed forever before they opened the car door to let us out.
I started making a plan. I didn't want to be punished by my father. He was always spanking us or screaming at us. I knew he was really going to be angry this time. He will be mad because we were gone, because we wanted to run away and mad, at me, because I took George.
The officers came back to the car and told George and I to come inside with them. They stayed in the house while my father asked us questions. When my father asked me what we were doing, I did what any healthy and life-threatened child would do. I lied.
I said, "We were going to buy some ice cream from the dairy." My father said, "With what? How much money do you have?" I reached in my shorts and pulled my money out. I held my hand out for him to see, I had a dime and four pennies.
My father said, "That isn't enough to buy ice cream. You need two dimes." Thinking quickly, I said, "I was going to share mine.", but he didn't "buy it".
My father decided everyone should have ice-cream, except for me, I got a spanking for lying and was sent to bed.
Deborah Russell, © 2001