I was happy to see a potentially sad story end in happiness Wednesday when a 10-year-old Baton Rouge girl ran away from home, only to be found a few hours later and returned to her household.
I write this column not to make light of a possible tragedy but to illuminate the fact that I also ran away from home. Well, sort of.
I was around 11 years old, and I had done something I thought would cause me to receive some pretty painful punishment. Instead of facing what was coming, I told my grandmother I was going to run away.
Sitting in her yellow rocking chair, my grandmother appeared oblivious to my pronouncement. My grandmother never really looked up. She just chewed her W.E. Garret and Sons snuff and continued to rock.
She was waiting for my dad to arrive and dispense punishment.
So off I went to run away, without a plan and without any clothes or food. But I did take the $3 in nickels, quarters and dimes I had in my piggy bank. I could use the money for food and essentials I would need on the run.
As I departed the house, I didn’t get one word of discouragement from my grandmother. My first stop was the school basketball court nearby. I played about three or four games before determining my next stop.
I started walking back toward the Beauregard Town home I was running away from. I stopped in Triangle Grocery, the neighborhood store, and bought a few cookies and a strawberry soft drink.
I could see my house from the front of the store. I felt an urge to return. But, I was running away, darn it, and that was that. It was early evening, and I knew my grandmother had probably finished cooking. But, I was steadfast (though weakening) in my resolve that I was never returning to 746 Europe St.
I wound up at the concrete-lined canal near the rear of the store to eat my cookies. I had walked that canal with friends several times, a crazy thing for us to do because of the snakes and other bad things in there. But we were young and dumb, so it made sense.
I thought about hiding out around the canal. I could run out in the mornings, sneak back into the house and get food and clothes.
I ditched that thought right after noticing a swirl in the canal water, which meant a snake was probably there. My next thought was genius. I would hide out in the tin storage building in the back of my house. From there, I could launch food and clothing raids into the house and be back before anyone knew it.
So, I crept back in the yard and quietly entered the clutter-filled building. To be honest, I really hoped my grandmother would see me and yell at me to come into the house. Maybe she did see me and just didn’t say anything.
I cleared a space in the corner of the drafty little building and sat down with my thoughts for about an hour before I started to get a little antsy and hungry. Nightfall was approaching. I couldn’t turn on the light in the building, because my great location would be discovered.
I made a quick run to the store to buy some night rations — a root beer and a Honey Bun — before it closed.
About 30 minutes later, I gave up the ghost. I was tired, wanted my grandmother’s cooking, and frankly, I was starting to get scared.
Defeated, I walked in and went over to my grandmother, who was napping. The food was cooked, but I didn’t dare pull the lid off her pots without her permission.
I touched her shoulder and told her I was back from running away. She said my dad had decided what I had done was not worth a spanking. There was no hug, smile or anything.
But, she did point to the stove, which meant I could eat.
But you know what? I think she was happier than I was.
Edward Pratt, a former Advocate editor, is assistant to the chancellor for media relations at Southern University. His email address is email@example.com.