I know many people, both men and women, who have expressed the desire to run away from home when they were little. Even my wife made such a threat, but did not carry it through.
Now I never had such a wish. I recognized a good thing when I saw it-"three hots and a cot." I did not want to leave home nor did I want my parents to leave me, particularly after March of 1949.
My mother took me shopping to the fire sale at Woolworth's in Charleston, W.Va. In March of 1949, an early morning fire at the store resulted in major damage to the multi-story building and injury to seven firefighters. The store did reopen with attractive sales on damaged and undamaged merchandise. Like a lot of women of that or any era, Mom could not pass up a good sale. Since I never had a babysitter, except my siblings, my mother dragged me along on the city bus to the downtown department store, filled with the fumes of burnt wood and the sight of water damage.
For a 5-year-old boy, the swarm of people, mostly women, going into and coming out of the store seemed endless. Mom made a command decision to leave me outside the front door while she did her shopping. I patiently waited alone by the door for what seemed like hours. Since I had a limited ability to read or write, or to tell time with or without a watch, I didn't know what to do. Maybe I could call someone, if I only had a dime. That wouldn't have solved the problem since I didn't know how to use a pay phone.
I panicked. I went into the store and promptly got lost in the mob of shoppers. I knew that I had been abandoned. I knew Mom had always liked my brothers more than me. After what seemed like forever, a friendly police officer approached me. He asked me if was lost. I suppose an appropriate question at the time. I told him that my mother had left me, and I didn't know where she had gone. He said that he would look for her, but for me to wait at the soda counter. He offered to buy me a big orange drink. I was near my default position which politely meant that I was close to throwing up. I didn't need any big orange drink to aid in purging myself. My little mind could envision the newspaper headline, "Local child throws up in Woolworth store before passing on. Mother not found."
Although I religiously said my nightly prayer of "Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep," I had no prayer to cover this situation. I was a goner, no question about it. However, the officer eventually found my mother and brought her to me. Although she hugged me and said how glad she was to see me, she couldn't help but scold me a little for abandoning my assigned post. I didn't care. I wanted to go home, and I never wanted to leave. Running away never entered my head. I knew what it was like "out there." It was not pleasant.
No. I liked being in my home, although I eventually ran away, not to join the circus, but the army. Heck, I was 19. Mom didn't come looking for me, but then there were days that I wished she had. I would have been more than glad for her to have hugged me and taken me home.