i've had a couple people write out a story from their childhood memory bank for me lately & that's gotten me to thinking about my own ancient history. one certain thing keeps coming to mind, but i cringe every time i remember it.
between the ages of 9 and 16, i lived in this one house in a suburb in new york state. it was typical suburbia, with neighborhoods never far from shopping or restaurants. i'm not sure how old i was when i finally convinced my parents that i was old enough to walk to the store, but eventually i was allowed to walk down to the stores and fast food places about a mile from my house. at first i could only go if my older brother went, but eventually i was trusted to go, as long as i was with one of my girlfriends.
it was an easy walk, no hills, and we'd just meander along the shoulder of the road since we were really only going for fun, not because we needed to get somewhere. sometimes, when we girls were walking, people would honk at us as they flew past in their cars. at first it startled us. but then we realized that many of the drivers were actually guys who we presumed were checking our fine selves out. sometimes they would yell things out of the window as they sped past, like "woohoo!" or "yeah, baby!" or "nice rack!" it was shocking and offensive and amazingly exciting all in one rush of wind as a car went past, leaving us foolish girls in a wake of exhaust and excitement.
one summer, somewhere between the ages of 14 and 16, a friend and i spent a lot of time walking. we walked in my neighborhood, her neighborhood, the mall, the local pool, the beach on vacation together. anywhere we could freely go, we went. and we were getting so many honks and yells that we decided to start counting them. i have no idea what our final count was, but it was fun trying to keep track of our percieved awesomeness by seeing how much honky feedback we could collect.
sometimes a car would slow down or stop to talk to us. we knew we should get away from cars who stop in the road for girls like us, but there were times when we couldn't resist the urge to see if maybe our parents were wrong. if maybe the world wasn't out to harm and destroy us like we'd been warned, but instead might have wholesome intentions and just want to ask for our phone numbers or tell us we were cute. there were times when a driver would stop and ask us where we were going or even offer us a ride. there were a few times when it was adults, generally couples or a mom-ish woman who probably legitimately wanted to be helpful, but mostly it was teenaged or young adult guys. and i'm horrified to admit that sometimes we would climb right into those cars with strangers and accept a ride to the nearest grocery store or hardees.
we would huddle together in the backseat, scared and thrilled to be living dangerously. we made small talk with our drivers and hoped that this wouldn't be our last day on earth. we hoped that the person who's car we were riding in would actually drop us off where we intended to go rather than drive into the woods & do unspeakable things to our clueless, naive selves.
every single time we accepted rides from strangers, they really did take us to our intended destination. the couples and moms would warn us that we really shouldn't be getting into cars with people because not everyone was as nice as them. the boys would ask for our names or numbers and we'd give our aliases and fake digits, thinking we were the smart ones by not giving out our real info.
at this stage of my life, as a mom of a little girl, i pray and teach and warn my child about the very same things my parents told me. i thank God that he never let me or my friends be stolen or hurt or even really scared, in spite of our own stupidity. all i can say is that i think the prayers that my parents were praying really worked because my safety and well-being clearly cannot be attributed to my clear-headed thinking & wise decision making process.