Once over dinner my husband and some friends recalled frightening childhood memories of being chased. I was surprised that they had all been through (and survived) something so scary. My childhood was (in my mind) fraught with danger and trepidation. As afraid as I remember being much of the time, I was never EVER actually chased. I think I would have had a heart attack. My imaginary abductors were scary enough. Perhaps my would-be assailants sensed this and considered me a liability. We’ll never know.
Even though no one ever chased me, I do have vivid memories of running away. I could run away really really fast if I had to. Once after a sleepover I was walking home with a friend in pajamas and a robe. (I’m pretty sure the robe was yellow terry cloth with red ric rac, sewn by my mom.) It was around noon—you remember those lazy sleepover mornings, don’t you? We thought it was maybe a little embarrassing that we were still in our pajamas so we pretended to be weak and sick as we walked. This, we reasoned, would make the people in cars passing us feel sorry for us instead of judging us for still being in our pajamas. We started to fall over onto the ground to really make it convincing but when a car slowed down we jumped up and ran away! We had to.
On another occasion—a real red-letter day, in fact—I was walking home with my friend Rachel after her older sister had taken us to buy our first bras. (I didn’t really need one.) Her sister had cruelly made us try them on over our clothes right by the cashier. Rachel’s sisters were insufferably cruel. If anyone would have ever really chased me, it would have been one of them. We had returned to my house and put our bras on. Then we had to walk to Rachel’s. Such walking, climbing fences, and “cutting through” yards is the gist of my childhood.
I was so self-conscious with my new bra on that I thought everyone could see the strap in back through my shirt. I was also convinced they could see the box through the white paper sack I carried, as if the letters “B” “R” “A” were readable through the opaque bag. I rolled it up into a sweaty and twisty cone in my fist. As we passed the local tree house we saw a boy I had loved (unrequited) all through grade school. We screamed and ran away so dang fast! We had to.
My mom doesn’t know about any of this, probably because most if it is imaginary. As my kids grow older and become more separate from me instead of cute little extensions of myself it is both sad and delightful. Because, what are they thinking? Kids are strange and frightening creatures.