This story was such a good match for this week's writing prompt "getting away" at Brenda's Pondering With A Purpose that I decided to share it there too!
Today marks the beginning of Two Shoes Tuesday. I hope it proves to be a fun writing exercise that we all can share and enjoy. Our first writing prompt is appropriately "shoes", and this is my story...
Eleven year old Tara was spending the summer with her grandparents at their farm. Today found her and Grandma Jo up in the attic sorting thru trunks and boxes, looking for the diaries Grandma Jo kept when she was Tara's age.
Looking in an old tarnished mirror, Tara tried on a big hat with flowers that she'd found in a hatbox on a shelf. "I wore that when I married your Grandpa", Grandma Jo said smiling.
Tara wrapped herself in a fringed lace shawl from the trunk and swirled gracefully across the floor, scanning the room for other prized possessions. "Grandma," Tara said, "Why is there a pair of dirty ol' boots hanging up there on a nail?"
"Those are mine," Grandma Jo replied.
"Ewwww," Tara said, in the manner of pre-teens nowadays, "They're kind of funny looking, why did you wear them?"
"Ahhh, Miss Tara," Grandma Jo said with a sparkle in her eyes, "Those are magic boots!"
"Magic boots?" inquired Tara. "I thought magic shoes were supposed to be something fantastic like the ruby slippers in The Wizard of Oz!"
At that Grandma Jo chucked and replied... "Not all magic is visible to the eye, Tara, some of it has to be seen with the heart. Let me tell you about those shoes..."
"Long ago when I was a young woman about seven years older than you are now, I couldn't wait to leave the small town where I grew up, to go out and experience the big world. As soon as I graduated from high school, I took some of the money I'd been given for gifts and bought those hiking boots you see. They were pretty back then, nice and warm, and felt so good on my feet! I need them because I was planning an adventure, I was going to hitchhike across clear across the country from one ocean to the other!"
"Grandma!" exclaimed Tara, her eyes open wide, "That's dangerous! Mom says my friend and I are never to accept rides from strangers! Didn't your Mom and Dad tell you that?"
"Well, yes they did, Tara," Grandma Jo said, as she settled back against the attic wall, "Mom and Dad got pretty upset about my plan and said there was no way I was going to go hitchhiking anywhere! But I wasn't listening to my parents too good back then. I thought I was all grown up and a whole lot smarter about things than they were, and I was determined to take that trip whether they liked it or not!"
At that Tara's face registered a look of total surprise. She couldn't imagine her Grandma being anything but a nice old lady who was kind and gentle and never did anything wrong. "So what happened?" Tara asked, "What's the magic part?"
"Well", Grandma Jo began, "One evening I met up with a new friend I'd made that summer. He was from Minnesota and he was staying at the lake where my family had a little cabin. His name was Rick and he was headed to Delaware to meet up with some friends and spend a few weeks at the beach. He invited me to go with him. It sounded like such fun that I couldn't resist. So I smuggled some clothing and things out to our garage when no one was looking, and stuffed them into the new backpack I'd hidden out there. I told my mom I was headed over to my friend's house for the night. Mom was busy washing supper dishes and said "ok" over her shoulder as I headed out the door.
"You lied to your mother?" Tara said, flabbergasted.
"Well, yes I did, Tara, and it turned out to be something I was ashamed about later. It's never a good idea to lie to the people you love, or to anyone for that matter. It just makes a big mess of things and damages their trust in you."
"So what happened then?" Tara asked, growing serious.
"Well, Rick and I stood along side the highway just as the sun was going down, and before long we caught a right with guy in a pickup truck who was heading in the same direction. After that we caught, another ride, and another, late into the night and all the next day. By the time we finally made it two the East Coast two days later, I was tired and badly wanting a shower and a good meal.
We met up with Rick's friends who were renting a room at a run-down motel there, and I discovered we'd be staying with about ten other people our age. At first it was pretty fun, like a big party all the time. I felt pretty guilty about not telling my family where I was and I knew they'd be worried sick. Back then we didn't have cellphone to carry around with us, so they didn't have any way of calling me to find out where I was. I'm sure it didn't take them long to discover my backpack and hiking boots were gone, along with jeans and shirts and jacket. I thought about calling, but then decided not to because I knew Dad was going to be very angry and would tell me to come right home.
After a few weeks the fun began to wear off. I was tired of everyone drinking beer and being drunk most of the time, and never having much money for food. I was tired of sleeping crowded together in that small room, and I was worried about the drugs I'd seen people using, that was something I didn't want any part of, and I hoped it wasn't going to get us into trouble.
Then Rick started hanging out more with another girl who was there, and I could see that he wasn't as interested in me anymore. He liked using drugs. I didn't know that when I went with him or I'd never have gone. I guess I didn't really know him as well as I thought. One night he got mad and snapped at me, "You're such a stick in the mud" he said loud enough for everyone to hear, "why don't you just go back home to your mommy, little girl."
That hurt my feelings really bad, so I loaded up my backpack, put my socks and boots on, and walked out that door without ever looking back. I wasn't about to let him to see that I was crying, that's for sure.
I didn't have any money or a place to stay, and my adventure in the big world wasn't feeling very good anymore. The truth is it was late at night and I was pretty scared. All I knew is that I wanted to be home again, far away from Rick and his friends.
I headed out to the highway and stuck my thumb out, hoping for a ride. Pretty quick a big semi-truck pulled over and the driver tooted his horn. He pushed open the door and said, "Where you headed little lady?" He was a big burly guy and I was nervous about getting in that truck with him, but I knew I had to get home somehow. I climbed up in the truck, and soon we were on our way West. I told him about my plans for an adventure and how wrong it had all turned out. I was so tired, and before long I was fast asleep as he drove on thru the night.
The next morning he pulled into a truck stop and made a phone call, and before long a lady showed up in a shiny blue car. "Tammy, this here is my friend Jo" he said pointing to me, "she needs to get back home to her family in Dakota safe and sound."
He handed her some money and a credit card, gave me a hug and said, "Jo, a lot of bad things could have happened to you out there on the road, and if the wrong driver would have stopped last night you could have been dead by now. If it wasn't for those lucky hiking boots you are wearing, I'd hate to think what might have been your fate."
"Now you go home to your parents" he continued, "and say your sorry for scaring them so bad. I know they'll be happy to see you, even if they have plenty of lecturing to do. And the next time you start thinking about sneaking off on an adventure, you just remember those lucky boots there, and how they saved your life this one time... and you leave 'em hanging on the wall where they belong."
"Tammy and I talked all the way back to home to South Dakota," Grandma Jo went on "and I realized that there were better ways to explore the world, starting with attending college like I'd originally planned. When we pulled into the driveway of my parent's house, I couldn't hold back the tears anymore. Mom came running out the door and folded her arms around me. Pretty soon we all were crying that I was home safe at last."
"I've kept those lucky hiking boots all these years", Grandma Jo told Tara, "hanging them up on the wall to remind me never to lie to the people who care about me, and that no matter how good things might sound elsewhere, the very best place in the whole world is right here at home."
Tara looked up at the old muddy boots with a new sense of awe. She had a new understanding of her Grandmother too. Just like her Grandma Jo, she sometimes wanted to run away from life and find someplace much better, but maybe Grandma was right and home wasn't so bad after all.