Yesterday's Magazette

16 – Running Away

Running Away From Home

By Sara Baker

North Texas summers are always hot, humid, and quite dry; but in the summer of 1959 North Texas felt like a furnace, for the scorching sunlight and intense heat ignited one of the worst droughts on record. I was about 9 years old, but old enough to remember that the sidewalks sizzled and roasted my bare feet, and the July heat permeated the already parched ground in front of our home, leaving huge cracks and crevices. The lawns—yellow and burnt—smelled like bales of hay that had been sitting in the summer fields too long.

YM:Home:Baker:Saraandbike

We couldn’t afford air-conditioning so Mother opened the windows, even though the air outside was motionless.

As the day progressed, heat singed the air in our tiny two-bedroom home, frequently making it feel stagnant, oppressive, and suffocating. I often spent my summer days quietly sitting by the open windows reading a book, and—despite the motionless air—enjoying the sweet smell of Mother’s honeysuckle vines.

Occasionally, I escaped outdoors, riding my Schwinn bike up and down the neighborhood streets, pedaling at white heat speed until I felt bursts of warm air blowing across my face and shoulders. When I stopped, though, I both felt and saw the heat waves rising around me—baking my bones and roasting the rubber tires.

I thought about riding my bike to the Garland city pool and jumping into the cool, clear water. I stopped, for I knew better than to go without asking Mother. So I pedaled home as fast as I could and offered up my seemingly simple solution to the summer heat.

“It’s soooo hot, Mama! May I go swimming today?”

“No, Sweetie, you may not. It’s too expensive to go swimming.”

YM:Home:Baker:Winifred “But I want to go swimming; all the other kids are going swimming,” I pleaded.

“No!” Mother exclaimed, “Don’t ask me again!”

I pouted, ran past her, and shouted, “Well, fine! I’m running away from home—to Granny’s house. I bet she’ll take me swimming.” With that proclamation I entered the bedroom and slammed the door.

Huge mistake.

My mother had zero tolerance for backtalking and door slamming. Besides, Granny lived 20 miles away, too far to pedal on my bike. “What was I thinking?”

Surprisingly, Mother didn’t immediately appear. She eventually opened my bedroom door brandishing a doll suitcase and a brown paper bag. “If you’re going to run away, you’ll need a suitcase.  Let me help you pack a few things.”

She opened my dresser drawers; grabbed a change of clothes and my pajamas; then gently closed the suitcase lid and said, “I’ve called your grandmother, and she’s expecting you. Oh, here’s a sack lunch with a peanut butter sandwich and bag of potato chips. Now, give me your wrist.”

Mother tied one of her delicate handkerchiefs around my wrist and told me, “Be careful with this. Inside is twenty-five cents so you can stop along the way and get something to drink.”

I was speechless and dumbfounded as she took my hand and escorted me out the front door, placing my lunch sack and suitcase in the rear saddlebags of my bike.  She hugged me and said, “Now call me when you get to Granny’s house. I love you.”

She calmly turned around, went inside, closing the screen door behind her. Even though my ego was bruised, I had to save face.  I felt that I now had no other option but to hop aboard my bike.  So, I rode to a nearby park, camped under a huge shade tree, cried, and listened to the locusts’ soothing summertime lullaby. When I awoke, the handkerchief on my wrist gave off a scent that smelled like my mother. I knew I had to go home.

As I pedaled home I wondered what I should say and do if Mother would, in fact, let me back home. I parked my bike, removing the suitcase and lunch, then gingerly opening the screen door. As I entered the living room, Mother momentarily looked up from her crossword puzzle and said, “Glad you’re home.”

I returned to my bedroom, unpacked my suitcase, and then ventured back to the living room, where I sat next to Mother on the couch. She hugged me in silence, smiled, and kissed me on the forehead. Thankfully, she was not prone to indignation, guilt, or “I told you so.” Instead, she lovingly taught me a life lesson without saying a word—running away is never a solution for disappointment, frustration, and anger.

Vol. 39 – Copyright © Yesterday’s Magazette – 2012

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