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.