The Time I Walked HomeWhen I was in first grade, a neighbor lady babysat me after school. Neighbor Lady had a daughter in my grade, and we carpooled with yet another neighbor girl who was in third grade and therefore an older, sophisticated, worldly woman. I idolized Third Grade Neighbor Girl.
Neighbor Lady (who also spent the day with her preschool-ish-aged son and my preschool-ish sister) would pick us up after school. One day, she didn't show up. The two other girls and I stood in the parking lot and waited. And waited. And waited. We probably waited about 15 minutes or so, but at the time it seemed like we were waiting for hours. All of the school buses left, and then the safety patrols all went inside. That was a really big deal. That meant it was really late. Once the safety patrols went inside, it was like we were the last living beings on the planet. We didn't know what to do.
Then Third Grade Neighbor Girl came up with a good plan: "Why don't we just walk home?"
This made complete sense. Obviously, no adult was coming to help us, so we needed to fend for ourselves. I should add that we did not live within walking distance of the school, we needed to cross numerous busy intersections, and nobody was going to know where we were once we left the school. These facts did not deter us, though, because they didn't even cross our minds.
WCK always interjects here, exasperated: "Mommy, why didn't you just go inside and tell a teacher what was going on?"
Obviously, WCK has been raised to have more sense than I had. I'm also amazed that the school didn't post teachers outside to make sure all of the kids got home OK. And why didn't the safety patrols, you know, patrol the area to make sure everyone was safe? But this was 1981. Child safety hadn't been invented yet.
We started walking, and we made it pretty far. We even crossed the busiest street in our town. When I think of WCK crossing a street this size all by herself, I nearly have a breakdown. Just as we were passing the Creepy Shopping Mall, Neighbor Lady's car screeched to a halt next to us and she started pointing and screaming hysterically, "You know better than that! And you know better than that! And you know better than that!" At the time -- and up until I had a child -- I felt she was overreacting. Now I think she remained pretty calm, considering. If WCK tried something like this, you can only imagine the angry-eyebrow picture she'd have to draw later. A single piece of paper would not be able to contain my angry eyebrows. (As a side note, I used to think Neighbor Lady was "mean", because she was always yelling at us to "hustle" in the mornings before school when the other carpool driver was on the way. Now that I've had to get one kid ready in the mornings, I just have to say, hats off to you, Neighbor Lady. Hats off.)
Anyway. I don't remember if there was ever an explanation as to why she was late, but I also don't remember my parents being mad at me, oddly enough. But to this day, I'm completely obsessed with being on time to pick WCK up from school or drama club or wherever, and it's all because of The Time I Walked Home.