When we were growing up, my Aunt Sue and I were best friends. There was only two month's difference in our ages so there was a lot of growing up together to be done. We both had a great sense of humor and both of us were fairly witty. We had caused our mother's great anxiety while we were growing up but none compared to the day my mom, Sue's sister, made a fatal mistake.
We were in our mid-teens at the time and were having a pretty good day. It was a summer day and it was hot and humid outside. Vacation Bible School was being held and we had spent the morning there. Vacation Bible School in those days were held each morning for about four hours and lasted two weeks. That is quite different from the two hours each evening for a week that Vacation Bible School lasts now. It was a difficult four hours. Everyday during the summer for two whole weeks we had to be on our best behavior. This was during the summer when we were out of school. It wasn't called "Vacation" for nothing. We were supposed to be out enjoying our summer days, investigating nature, teaching ourselves about the world and life around us on our own. This time from school certainly wasn't meant for reading, singing and doing crafts for half a day each day for two weeks. That can be wearing on a teenager.
The day in question was a hot one as I said earlier. Hot days seem to bring out different aspects of some people's personalities. Apparently that is what happened to my mother on the day in question. We were in the car on our way home from VBS as we called it. Sue and I had ridden with mom plenty of times before so I was surprised when she told us to sit still and calm down. I am sure she knew that the standard procedure for Sue and I was to enjoy these trips with mom as much as possible so we were starting to pick at each other, poke and tickle and things of that sort. It was a fun ride up until the time when mom made a threat. We were either to stop and settle down or get out of the car and walk home.
We had heard this sort of threat dozens of times from both of our moms but nothing had ever come of it. We tried, we really did. We sat still as long as we could until what seemed like an invisible force would grab my arm and start poking at Sue or vice versa. There wasn't much we could do about it but mom did not buy it. Again the threat came out perhaps a little sterner this time and again we tried our best to do as she requested. Summer for a teenager is definitely not meant for sitting still and settling down, especially since we had just finished with four hours of sitting and settling down.
It was on highway fifty when she finally cracked. The car pulled over to the side of the road and came to a stop. We were ordered to get out and walk home. We sat there and stared at her as if to say "really?" The answer was quite definite. We were to get out NOW and walk home. So we slowly opened the door and stepped out into the heat of the two lane highway in mid town Kansas City. Not exactly the safest place to be walking but we were willing to accept the fate that had been brought down upon our heads. We stood and watched as the car we had been in pulled back onto the highway and began to grow small in the distance.
After the car was out of sight, we turned and began walking. We knew of a little used road about a mile ahead that would cut hours of time off of the walking so we both figured that would be our destination. Suddenly that invisible force grabbed a hold of us again and we found ourselves walking backwards with our thumbs stuck out. It was not more than two minutes before this big tractor trailer truck pulled over to offer a ride. Of course we would take a ride. We had to only get to the shortcut and that was less than a mile. Still more time was being shaved off of the walk home.
When the truck stopped at the road that was to be the shortcut, we thanked the driver. He told us to be careful heading home and if his mom had left him along side a highway to walk, the police would be coming after her for abuse of some kind. We explained that she wasn't normally like this, she was just having a bad day that was explained by the heat.
The shortcut road was a little narrow, pothole filled road that would barely hold one car. It was seldom used because a lot of people didn't know about it and those that did did not want to ruin the suspension in their cars. The road was an extremely steep hill that climbed from the highway almost straight into the air. There was all kinds of discarded items along the side of it and so we began to scavenge a little bit. The find of the day was an old Missouri license plat that was from the year 1956. The year we were born. We snagged the license plate and continued up the hill.
The hill came out of the woods into a nice residential area about a mile from Sue's house. From here was was an easy walk on home and so we began to head down Jackson Ave walking by the school that my mother had gone to as a child. Finally we arrived at the street that we knew so well and began that final leg home. What awaited us would be a total shock to both of us.
As we walked up the front walk to the house, both my grandmother and my mother came running out, throwing the screen door open as if a hurricane was going on inside the house. Immediately we were assaulted by loud shouts questioning where we had been. The second the word "hitchhike" came out of Sue's mouth a whole new barrage of outrage came flying over our heads. The truck driver was very nice we said and explained how we had walked up the shortcut road after the truck driver had dropped us off.
The question again came out, what were you doing and thinking? Well, we were doing what we were told, that was walking home from where my mother had dropped us off. We were being GOOD. That line did not go over very well.
Apparently we had misunderstood the instructions given us. While we thought we had heard "Get out of the car and walk home" apparently what was actually said was "Get out of the car, stand by the side of the road while I drive off to the next exit and turn around and come back to pick you up after you had learned your lesson about being over active in the car." Personally, I do not see how both me and Sue could make that big of a mistake in listening to instructions. I suppose something happens to you after spending a whole school year listening to instructions from a trained teacher, and then being thrown into the world to try to figure out instructions from those not trained to teach for a living. I am not sure, but one thing is apparent, we certainly got the instructions turned around on that day.
From then on, I think both grandma and mom were slightly more careful in their threats to us because we had shown that we do take their threats seriously and being willing to take those threats seriously was something to be respected.