There comes a moment, or perhaps moments in one’s life when you truly believe it’s just time to pack up and leave. You may leave your town, your profession, your spiritual or political beliefs, or you may even leave your house. Some people choose to run away from everything, even their mom. My wife chose to do this at the ripe young age of four.
Knowing my wife, Britt, since the age of thirteen, I always knew she was pretty independent and even perhaps a bit stubborn at times, but I had no idea her stubbornness would lead her to such a drastic decision barely after infancy. Not until recently did I find out she left her mother at such young age. Yes, she was a four year old runaway, but why? I had to know.
Evidently, although her memories are slightly fogged, fashion played a key role in her departure. Constantly, Britt and her mother would argue over what she was to wear on any given day. This began at the age of three months, but boiled over at age four. There was nothing specific, just general, daily garment disagreements. So, in Britt’s eyes, leaving her home and mother wasn’t impulsive. After over a three year battle with her mother, Gail, it was time to leave.
She’d been planning it for years……the leaving part anyway. She knew she’d need a suitcase, but that’s where her plan ended. She had memorized her exit speech, opening and closing the door, and staring down the road of fashion independence bliss, but beyond that, how else she would survive hadn’t crossed her mind. Nevertheless, the day had come for her say her goodbye.
Britt waltzed into her room to collect some of her belongings, and even though she struggled picking out the perfect outfits for her journey, surely she wouldn’t ask her mother for advice. The very thought of this would embarrass the entire proud community of runaways. Running away would lose all its meaning. She was preschooler, and a woman, of principal. Finally, she made up her mind regarding the collectibles and garments, placed them all in the suitcase and headed for the door.
Exit Speech: (Facing her mother) “I’m running away.”
Her words were crisp, concise, and uttered without signs of remorse. Her mother simply replied, “O.k.”
As Britt carried her suitcase to the door, she turned and waved goodbye. Quickly, her mother stopped her. “Wait a minute, Britt. Since you are leaving, you’ll need these.” Instead of packing more 1970’s casual wear into Britt’s suitcase, she began filling it with a set of encyclopedias. “These will help you along your journey. Good luck!” To me, this was thee most clever, if not brilliant anti-runaway chess move in the history of runaway lore.
Now, one could argue that Gail’s strategy was to place so many of these books in the suitcase that her daughter would be anchored to change her mind. The sheer weight alone should have prevented Britt from leaving, not to mention the extensive amount of reading required. Or, one might argue Gail was merely amusing herself. (But, Gail knew Britt better than anyone on this earth.) Never one to accept failure gracefully, Gail knew Britt would give it her best shot. Indeed she did. Although far too heavy to carry for a four year old, Britt’s iron will, along with tremendous passion and desire would somehow help her manage to drag that suitcase throughout the cosmetic world. Grunting in her tye dyed dress, she made it through the door. One last glance at her mother, and she was off to the nearest Bon Marche.
Making it a full three houses down the road, almost an entire block, Britt needed a break. Fortunately, the third house was her Grandma Ruthie’s. If nothing else, Grandma Ruthie might offer Britt a stale cookie providing a little sugar energy when she continued blazing her path to designer clothing paradise. Before Britt could knock on the door with one of her calloused hands, Ruthie had already opened it. Oddly, Grandma Ruthie almost looked as if she was expecting Britt.
“Well, hello, Britt! C’mon in, Dear. Where are you going with all that stuff? Here. Have a cookie.”
“Thanks, Grandma Ruthie. I’m running away.”
“Did you tell your mother?”
“What did she say?”
“She said ‘good luck’.”
“Do you want to call her and tell her you are ok?”
“That’s quite a suitcase. What’s in it?”
“A bunch of heavy books mom put in it. They may as well be bricks.”
With a phony gasp, “Oh my, this must be a set of encyclopedias. Your mother must care a great deal for you if she sent these with you. She might even love you. You will need these.”
“I guess, but the clothes she makes me wear make me look like a clown.”
“I understand, Dear. Have another cookie.”
After devouring another cookie tasting like yesterday’s newspaper, Britt began to miss her mother. Forgetting about the fashion line she was designing, she began thinking about the nurturing line her mother was providing, and it made as much sense as it could for a woman who was four years old.
“Are you sure you don’t want to call your mother? It’s been almost fifteen minutes.”
Britt called her mother and thanked her for the encyclopedias and informed her she hadn’t had the time to read any of them yet. She also asked if she could come back home. Her mother, Gail, said, “Ok.”
One year later, Britt honed her negotiating skills when it came to apparel selection. She and her mother made a deal. As long as Gail could choose what Britt would wear to school, Britt could choose whatever she wished before and after school. So, all was o.k..until she became a teenager. That’s when she began reading the encyclopedia and wearing makeup.