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Memoir Byte: Missing – Where is my Family and Furniture?

I was 6, walking home the 3/4 mile walk from school. We’d recently moved into a new 3 bedroom backsplit. Our house was situated on a cul-de-sac  where new homes were still for sale, and some were still being built. In order to shorten the walk to and from school, I’d learned a new trick – cut through old and grumpy Mrs. Hankowitz’s backyard to shave off a 5-7 minute walk around 2 streets.

I discovered some neighborhood kids taking this short cut so I joined in, only I feared the old woman seeing me and yelling like a banshee to GET OFF her property. It seemed Mrs. H who lived with her already adult children didn’t appreciate children or just didn’t appreciate children stepping on her grass and using her backyard as a gateway and shortcut to public school.

This one day in particular, the weather was nasty and I ran most of the way home to get out of the wind and pouring rain. Dashing through the final stretch past Mrs. H’s backyard, I headed directly for my front door and stepped inside. I stood for a moment in the front hallway as a chill ran up my spine. Where was my mother and my younger siblings? WHERE DID ALL OF OUR FURNITURE GO? At first I was stunned by what I was seeing – or not seeing in my house. I quickly ran into the kitchen, only to discover our kitchen appliances were gone too. I sat down on the empty linoleum floor and began to cry my little heart out. I don’t know how much time passed while I sobbed, but I do remember thinking really hard as to where did my family and all of our furniture go, and why did they leave me behind? I cried and cried, wondering what had I done so bad that my family abandoned me, then I finally stood up and proceeded to dash up the few stairs to the bedrooms for a last search for my family.

I entered my parents’ master bedroom first. Again, I found no sight of anyone or any furniture, and noticed that even 2 walls were missing. All that stood was some wood framing. Once again I plopped myself on the dusty floorboards and began to cry. As my mind wandered to some very dark places and I rattled my brains trying to figure out where I should go for help, I heard a clanging noise. I followed the noise into the master bathroom ensuite and found what turned out to be a plumber, banging away on some pipes. He must have heard my crying over the clanging and stopped what he was doing.

“What’s the matter little girl?” asked the plumber. I managed to tell him, in between sobs,  this was my house and everybody left me, adding, they even took all the furniture. The plumber smiled and told me that nobody was living in this house yet because it wasn’t finished. I was in the wrong house!

Wiping away my streaming tears I thanked him and darted back outside to have a look at where I was. I’d never realized the house next door to us was a replica of my house one driveway over, then I made a mad dash for my own front door.

The fear of the whole event had me crying all over again as I ran to my mother with a face laden in tears and I proceeded to tell her what happened to me while gasping for air in between my continuing sobs. I told her how I thought she took the family and moved away without me. She had a few chuckles and hugged me just for a moment, telling me she’d never leave me behind, she loved me.

I don’t know if she thought the incident warranted chuckling at, but looking back, I also don’t know why a mother with such strict rules about riding my bike off the cul-de-sac had no quams about letting her little girl walk herself to school and back alone at age 6.

Just another memory that gives me pause.


© D.G. Kaye and, 2014 – 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to D.G. Kaye


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D.G. Kaye is a nonfiction/memoir writer, who writes from her own life experiences and self-medicates with a daily dose of humor.


  • Norah Colvin

    Oh, Debby, what a living nightmare for you. You must have been so confused and terrified. I’m sure you didn’t chuckle over the story for a long time. Your musing about your mother’s rules is interesting too. What a long way to walk to school on your own. In year one, (at 5-6 years old), I walked two miles to school, but I was accompanied by my older brother (7) and sister (8)!! 🙂

  • Marian Beaman

    My stable family on Anchor Road never moved, but you know that. I can’t identify with the details of your scary nightmare, but I’m glad your mother hugged you and told you she loved you after the scare.

    I do however have a version of Mrs. Hankowitz in my childhood. As you may know from my memoir, we grew tomatoes on 3 acres. My job on the weekends was to truck fresh tomatoes in my red wagon to the new houses behind our house. Once I overlooked the string cordoning off part of one woman’s lawn, newly seeded with grass. I walked right over it. It felt so dumb, especially since she yelled at me. I don’t remember whether she bought tomatoes from me or not. I just remember the yelling.

    Bittersweet story. You have at least one memory of your mother’s comfort, a good thing! 🙂

    • dgkaye

      Thanks for chiming in Marian. Yes, I do remember the ‘tomato’ stories well. 🙂 It’s amazing how reading or seeing something can trigger a memory – my Mrs. H reminded you of one of your own grass stories. And my Mrs. H was like the sore thumb on our court with families moving in with young children and Mrs. H the only one living there with her older children. We were all afraid of her. I actually thought she was a witch, she looked like one with her scraggly long black hair and her mean spirit. 🙂

  • Sally Cronin

    Oh Debby.. that was scary… I think my mother took me to school which was down the road, across two roads with school crossing guards until I was six and then I was on my own. At least there was a responsible adults at the crossings.. But it was a quarter of a mile. I know it was a different time but still….as to the empty house that plumber must have wondered what had hit him… glad you did at least get a hug from our mum. ♥♥

    • dgkaye

      Thanks Sal. You said it – a different world now. The thought of letting a 6 year old walk a mile alone to school nowadays would frighten the heck out of me. <3 xx

  • Marian Wood

    Wow, what a story, poor you! Very scary for you, good job that the plumber was there. You could have been there hours before you were found, or you realised you were in the wrong house.

    I’m not sure how old I was when we first walked home alone but we had no roads to cross. There is no way I would let my kids do the walk alone now and I doubt think the school would let them.

    My dad talks about walking home alone and running between every street light.

    Great post and very sweet! I can imagine you sat in that house distressed.

    • dgkaye

      Hi Marian. Thanks for the compassion. It certainly was a scary time for me, no doubts why I never forgot it. And I’m with you, the world is certainly a different place now. I’d never let my children walk alone to school in this era. I also don’t think I should have been either back then. 🙂

  • Darlene Foster

    What a scary thing for a six-year-old to experience. Poor you. Just the thought of being abandoned would have made me panic. I can see that happening though, especially in a new development with some houses not completed and many of them looking similar.

  • Christy B

    You’re right that you were too young for that walk alone, Debby! The fact you went into the wrong house is proof of that. I remember sitting myself down in a classroom in elementary school and then realizing it wasn’t the room I was supposed to be in – I was humiliated! I was reminded of this memory by reading about yours… Oh childhood xx

    • dgkaye

      Amazing how something can trigger a different memory for someone else. You’re right Christy, too young!And you aren’t alone on that, that also happened to me once too – wrong class. <3 xx

  • Jacqui

    What a memory. My sister and brother and I used to walk a long way to school, through fields, up unknown streets and busy highways. They remind us what we can get through if necessary, don’t they?

  • Hilary

    Hi Debby – that would terrify you for all your life … gosh I’d be horrified to this day. I guess your mother thought you lived in a safe neighbourhood and trusted you were old enough … but yes aged 6 is a little early – but perhaps not back then. I’m glad it ended safely is all I can – well written – cheers Hilary

  • Kate Johnston

    Yikes, very scary! I can’t imagine the fear the gripped you. Young kids walk back and forth to school by themselves frequently in my area. I will never forget driving past a tiny young girl–a peanut, really–walking by herself after school. So tiny, her backpack covered her entire torso. It bothered me so much, but that’s the story of a latchkey kid. I wish we had better systems for families with working parents. Carpools, neighbors, and family friends don’t seem to be taken advantage of as often as they should be.

    • dgkaye

      I so agree Kate. But at least the world wasn’t as dangerous when I was a little girl. It scares me to see little ones walking on their own in this new world even more. 🙁

  • Vishnu

    That sounds like the biggest nightmare for a child, Debby. They think their family has left them and moved. This sounds like it was an experience that remained with your for life. Our parents definitely made interesting parenting choices.

    • dgkaye

      To say the least Vishnu! It was quite traumatic for me at the time, and definitely leaves a mark. Parents didn’t now a whole lot about parenting back then – at least not in my family. 🙂

  • Sherri Matthews

    Oh Deb, I had my heart in my mouth reading this. So glad it worked out the way it did and at least your mom gave you a hug. But I can see why that memory gives you pause for another reason. Again, our lives run so parallel as it happened to me but when I was ten and I write about it in my memoir. I came home from school having been picked up by the man my mum left my dad for. I got home and our house was stripped bare. I had lived there all my life and when I said goodbye to my dad that morning, neither of us knew we would never live together again, and never in that house. It was truly devastating. Mum and I have talked about it many times over the years, and it’s hard because she realised she should never have left my dad that way without telling us kids and came to feel really awful about it. But it was what it was and we all just got on with life…as we do, right? But my brother, 18 months younger than me, remembers nothing of it. In fact, I think he’s blocked so much out. Me, however, remembers everything down to the smallest detail. I guess that’s why we write memoir, eh, Deb? I wish we had known each other as girls…but so glad we know each other know. Love you, girl… <3 <3 <3

    • dgkaye

      Oh wow Sher, I never knew that part about you. Yes, we are really a pair of parallel girls! Now I just want to hug you, so you have to accept my cyber hugs for you and that little girl! I can’t wait to read your book Sher! Sending you love and hugs across the pond. <3 <3 xoxox

  • Balroop Singh

    What a terrifying memory Deb, my heart goes out to that 6 year old child who had to walk home alone in nasty weather too. Such memories get embedded in the mind and return…I have a few! The most scary one when I got lost after seeing a movie and found myself alone on a road. I walked off as I was slapped by a family friend for sleeping through the movie. I was angry, as my mom didn’t say anything or hold my hand. I followed my cousin but discovered I was all alone!
    Thanks for sharing this byte, it gives solace that we all have been through difficult times.

    • dgkaye

      Thank you for your compassion Balroop. And oh, your story really strikes a chord. Some things never disappear Balroop. Maybe that I’ve jogged that unhappy memory for you, you can write more about it too – perhaps in poetry. 🙂 x

  • John Maberry

    I walked to school too. Never had as scary a time as you. A similar upset but for different reasons happened to me when I must have been at least as young as you. My father and mother went away shopping somewhere and as it grew dark I feared I had been abandoned. My father chastised my tears when they arrived home. Since he had cancer for a few years before dying when I was seven, I might have been no more than five. Yours is scarier though!

  • Sue Dreamwalker

    My heart was pounding along side that little girls Debby.. What a shock that must have been for your six year old self..
    But we learnt to grow quickly.. I often wonder too if a house could talk, what tales it could tell!!

    Much love your way dear Debby, So well written.. <3

  • Deborah Jay

    I guessed where this was going, but as a six year old it obviously seemed so real and scary at the time.
    At least it is one (sort of) good memory of your mother, even if she did chuckle. I suspect in her place I might have done so too, but not in front of you.

  • Jacquie Biggar

    Frightening! It’s easy to imagine a scared little girl wondering how her family could leave her- especially since your adrenaline would already be high from walking alone. Glad that angel plumber was there to help 🙂

  • R

    What a scary experience, Debby, especially at that age. I, too, was happy to read at the end that your mother told you she loved you. On the other hand, it’s quite interesting how hypocritical parents can be about their rules. Your mom probable bent her rules to whatever made her more happy or in charge? You sure have a fantastic memory!!!

    • dgkaye

      You hit the nail on the head. My mother’s rules suited her to whatever was going on in the moment in her life, lol. As for my memory, I have an amazing long, longggg term memory. But ask me what I ate for dinner last night, I’m stumped for a good few minutes, lol. 🙂

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