Sunday, April 22, 2007

To Go Home Again

Think back to the day you left home. You might have left with your parents’ blessing. Or you might have left a strained relationship. Last month, I spent two weeks in Rittman, the Ohio town of my childhood and I was reminded of the day that I first left home.

I was up to here with Mom. We had been going around in circles. She was being unreasonable and I realized that it was time to go. I knew who I could go to for help, however, and that was Grandma. My goal: Get to her farm, five miles south of town. Challenge: I didn’t have access to a vehicle because of being only five years old. Not to worry though. A woman with a mission is not easily deterred.

It started that morning when Mom wanted to perm my hair. Well, okaaay. After what seemed like hours of her jerking my hair and squirting that smelly solution at me and then wiping drips from my eyes, it was time to see the results.

But when I looked in the mirror, I was not happy. That curly, cutesy look would never do, not for a confirmed tom boy who didn’t do prissy, much to Mom’s dismay. No, I needed to get rid those curls and fast. Luckily, she had dropped a clue earlier.

Now be sure not to get your hair wet or else your perm won’t last.

It’s likely that I tried to wash my hair in the bathroom sink and got caught in the act. So then out to the backyard swing set for a moping session which evolved into strategic planning. Grandma would let me wash my hair. I could count on her. But how could I get to her place?

These shoes are made for walking and that’s just what they’ll do. . . I must have been humming that Nancy Sinatra song years before it hit the charts. I set out along Lincoln Drive, turned left onto Sunset and then right onto Main. Walking along sidewalks through familiar neighborhoods was easy enough but navigating through downtown was trickier. I passed the fire station, the library and then somehow got off the sidewalk and began walking on the street, behind the cars angle-parked in front of the department store. Into the next block, I hurried past two steepled churches and down the incline that led past the tavern, the car showroom and finally to the railroad on the edge of town.

There I stopped in my tracks. A train was idling in the near distance and I was mulling over whether to cross when an all-too-familiar vehicle pulled up, a blue and white, two-toned Chevy or something. Sure enough, it was Mom. I’d been found out. She reached across the front seat to crank down the window.

Young lady! WHERE do you think YOU’RE going?

She burst into staccato mode, You. . . had better. . . get your self. . . in. . . this. . . car. . . right. . . this. . . minute. . .and I don’t mean MAYBE!
That’s the closest Mom ever came to swearing.

That evening, after a series of dinner table lectures about safety, obedience and the value of home beauty treatments, I went ahead with my bedtime routine. It would end with Mom sitting on the edge of my bed and chatting in the soft glow of the bedside lamp. That evening, however, our conversation had a twist.

So Eileen, have you learned a lesson today? Don’t you think you should apologize for all the commotion you caused around here?

And so I did apologize with words my mother would remind me of for years to follow.

Mom, I’m so sorry if I hurt your feelings.

* * * * *

How typical of a child’s logic to make a decision without considering the consequences. I hadn’t thought about getting hungry, it getting dark or the perils of walking near big trucks, and cars speeding outside the city limits.

Fortunately, a friend of the family spotted me that afternoon. I had crossed the street in front of him and we smiled and waved. The situation struck him as being odd and later he telephoned my mother. Thank goodness for his alertness and concern.

In the years following my little adventure, Grandma moved closer to town and married her childhood sweetheart, both 70. There have been other changes too. I eventually got wheels of my own, I’ve voluntarily had my hair permed at least 85 times and I left home dozens of times with Mom’s blessing if not her encouragement. But what would I give now for time with my dear mother – a car ride, a telephone call, a quiet chat before bedtime. It would be so nice, even for a few moments, to be able to go home again.

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