Self Inflicted Frantic

My parents had a strange way of raising us kids. Where most parents keep kids under tight leashes, mine gave us unusual freedoms. When the adults were chanting the mantra, “keep it clean”, mine chanted, “pick it up off the floor and eat it to build your street immunities.” At an age when most caregivers said, “You can only play on the street if I watch you”, we were allowed to hike for miles with just a friend to have a picnic. When I came in with cuts and scrapes from things like riding bikes, they stated, “What are you going to do about it?” Of course, when it crossed the serious threshold, they did take appropriate action.

This attitude stayed true as we got older. My mother had a frequent activity in downtown San Francisco. Sometimes she would take me the hours drive and drop me off in Golden Gate Park, alone for 1-2 hours. When we went to Disneyland, they wanted the quiet shows and we wanted the wildest rides, so off we went at age 7 with the sole instruction, meet us for lunch in 4 hours. Though Disneyland was relatively safe, New York City wasn’t. At age 14, they let us explore the ‘64 World’s Fair with the same instructions. Do I feel you shuddering?

Once our backpacking vacations commenced, their attitudes applied here. They showed us the map each morning and said, here is our next campsite. Find us a good lunch spot about half way and wait for us there. I struggled to keep up with my older brother, Bob, but usually found that he had been waiting at the lunch spot for 10 minutes. My younger sister, Betty, usually straggled in ten minutes subsequent to my arrival. Then we played hearts for half an hour till the parental figures appeared on the scene.

One day, after lunch, we were reminded of the name of our campsite and sent off. The usual order of the hike was somehow reversed. Betty was ahead of me while Bob was behind, both out of my sight. I arrived at a fork. One trail had the name we were looking for, but dread set in my heart, for we were supposed to take the other trail. I dawdled till Bob appeared. He refused to believe that Betty would make that mistake. I argued until a person appeared up from the lower correct trail. Quizzing him, elicited no sighting of persons in those outfits. Bob was still reluctant, but soon, a lady descended down the upper wrong trail. A conversation ensued and she had clear memories of the duo. With a curse, Bob threw down his pack and took off at a run to lasso the vagrants. There was no frantic panic. We just discussed what needed to be done then set out to accomplish the deed. When all were safely at the camp, we discussed how frantic we would be if the two had gone to the other site and we had sat at the correct campsite awaiting their non-arrival.

I watched my neighbors in the totally opposite mode. They were babysitting their sister’s dog and it escaped. They called me, frantic, saying the sister would never forgive them. I walked the neighborhood and found a house the critter had appeared at, seeking people. It was no longer there, but after strolling the rest of the area, I knew he had found another family and we could find him in the morning. I told my friends we were fine but they remained panicked. Sure enough, the sister had posted on Facebook, frantic note after frantic note culminating in a reward note, while my neighbor desperately cruised the community all night. I slept peacefully. “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You.” Isa 26:3

6 thoughts on “Self Inflicted Frantic

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  1. I love this waft of a bygone freedom to ‘take a chance’ ‘give it a whirl’ and maybe ‘get it wrong… the Lord making sure of us as we meander. Thank you for your memories. Your parents were made of solid confidence in their children!

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  2. When I visited Cambodia I noticed the children aged 3 or 4 were playing in the dirt, happily alone at the street’s edge. While I understand parental concern in today’s world, I’m happy my parents were more like yours. I have 4 brothers so perhaps they simply hadn’t enough time to monitor all of us!

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  3. When I was seven my Mom would let me walk uptown from our home. There was a Woolworth’s 5 & 10 in town (remember those?) and I would order a piece of blueberry pie at the lunch counter and pay for it myself. Nowadays, the waitresses would probably call child services if I child that young came in unaccompanied. I can still remember loving that blueberry pie.

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      1. We lived in a very quaint town, Pitman, NJ. It was founded on a Methodist Camp. The song, “In the Garden,” was actually written there by by C.Austin Miles. In the summer I still go to the tabernacle for special sevices.


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