Like the time when I was very young (6? 7?) and I was left , alone, on a street and I felt totally abandoned.
I had been over to a friend’s place, who lived about one kilometre down the road, and her father dropped me back home when it started to get dark. Our house was down a steep slope and you couldn’t really see it from the top of the driveway. He asked me if I was ok to walk down by myself and I told him that I was. I wanted that ‘big girl’ approval.
I ran down the driveway, complacent in an action I had done hundreds of time before, but when I came to the front door I was brought up short, involved in a scenario I had never experienced. The family car wasn’t in the garage and none of the house lights were on. In those days nobody locked their doors in the neighbourhood so I could have quite easily just gone in but the big house was so silent and there were so many pockets of darkness.
I was absolutely terrified. I hoped fervently that my parents would come back soon and, too afraid to go into the house, I huddled in the carport for what seemed a very long time. Eventually I thought I had waited enough and my family was never coming home and I climbed back up the steep driveway because it was lighter up there (no shady trees and a clear opening for the moon). I stood on the road and I didn’t know what to do next.
I started to whimper and then to cry, from fear. I don’t know how long I cried alone in the moonlight but eventually one of the neighbours heard me and brought me back to his house. I sobbed as I told him that my family were nowhere around: I was in a state of panic. They kept calling home until somebody picked up and then my Dad came to get me.
I can’t tell you the relief I felt when I saw his beloved figure walk in the door. But, desperate as I was to cling to him, I held back as he said that he had come to take me home, in a very matter of fact way, like it was no big deal. I was aware that I was expected to behave according to social niceties and not be more emotional than I had already been and I tried very hard. I thanked my rescuers like I had just been to a very enjoyable Christmas party.
When I got home my mother asked me why I hadn’t just gone inside. I told her that it was dark and I was scared and she responded that I was a big girl and could certainly be at home for a short time by myself. She made me feel pathetic and cowardly for being so scared. I don’t think my Dad ever got it, either. Maybe she was right and my Dad was right and I should have been a bit more self-sufficient but I do believe that a lot of my behaviour dates back to the time when, as a baby of 9 months, I was hospitalised for nearly a year. Visiting hours were 2 hours a week for parents and by the time I was released, I regarded one of the nurses as my mother figure. Essentially, I was ripped away from a mother, twice.
What I felt, up on that road above the darkened house, in the moonlight, was abandoned, again. My whole family had disappeared and they had left me behind because I wasn’t good enough.