Born To Be Free

“How am I going to get home?” My panicked 6-year-old sister asked while following me around the school playground like my shadow.

I had just found a bus ticket on the ground (an older student must have dropped it on their way home). I was behaving erratically. I was overly excited and ecstatic. It was like the equivalent of finding a hidden stash of cupcakes and Halloween treats. You could practically see the drool coming from my mouth. Except there wasn’t any drool. Also, in this case, it wasn’t Halloween and there were no treats. But I felt freaking alive; it was exhilarating. I have no idea why, but something in me had awoken. I was in grade 3, just about to turn 8.

I was walking in circles, psyching myself up to ride the bus alone. It’s not like I haven’t been on a bus before. Do I need a transfer? Mom always asked for a transfer. What would I need the transfer for? What exactly does the transfer do? That’s when my little sister approached me.

“I don’t know. Just go find Carol!” I responded huffily. *Carol, our older sister, was in grade 5. I was irritated and trying to get my little sister off my back quickly. Time was running out and I had a lot on my mind, what with trying to navigate the metropolitan transit system and all. We lived one block down the road from our school, but I was confused about which number bus to take lest I miss my one stop.

That time of year, the ground was newly thawed from old winter’s wrath and spring had just sprung. I’d never taken the bus on my own before and finding this ticket was like stumbling upon a pot of gold for me. I looked at that bus ticket and I could instantly envision my freedom and independence. Plus, I didn’t have to walk all the way home for once.

So, off I went. I secured my little knapsack and with bus ticket in hand, I hopped happily to the bus stop stationed in front of my school. As soon as a bus came, I boarded it praying it was the right one and immediately asked for a transfer. Just as fast as I had boarded that bus, it was already time to exit it at the next stop. I got off and there stood my grandmother, perplexed to see me getting off a city bus.

“Why are you getting off this bus and where is your sister?”

“It’s fine, grandma.” I grabbed her hand and pulled her toward the busy street. “Just take me across the street, please. Hurry! My sisters are on their way!”

We lived on top of a restaurant facing a busy road with no street lights or stop signs. The street also diverged so traffic was always going every which way. Every day after school, my grandmother dutifully waited for my sisters and I on one side of the street to make sure we crossed safely.

When she greeted me that day, my only concern was getting home ages before my sisters just to prove somehow that taking the bus was worthwhile. It was brilliant logic. I remember hightailing it the rest of the way home, after safely crossing the street with my grandmother, just to catch my breath after stuffing my face with my after-school snack so that it would look like I’d been home hours ago. My sisters walked in 5 minutes after me and looked at me like I was a lunatic. They weren’t wrong.

And that’s the story about the time I selfishly abandoned my little sister for a small slice of freedom.

How about you? Do you have any similar early year stories about wanting to flee the nest?

 

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*This was a truthful recollection of actual events in my life. Some conversations have been recreated and/or supplemented based on memory (to the best of my knowledge). The names and details of some individuals have been changed to respect their privacy.

33 thoughts on “Born To Be Free

  1. Omg this story is amazing! It’s crazy when we look back at the way we behaved when we were little, and living just on pure primal instincts and inclinations. And how true to ourselves those behaviors were. It’s kind of amazing to get back to that place as adults and remember that part of ourselves that was just doing us without any apologies or shame. So amazing and inspiring!

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    • haha thanks Libby! So glad you enjoyed it! And yes, that was exactly my thought writing it- how funny/coincidental/fateful that we become who we were … my personality was already fully formed by that age! And I can so see so much of myself in Charlotte blooming now… hopefully all the good things LOL hehe

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  2. Ah to be 8! Nothing bizarre like that. My job was to pick up my little sister from daycare and catch the bus home with her. I was 10 at the time. Sometimes we would spend the bus money on an icy pole or cake and walk home instead. As an adult I think back in horror. So dangerous but we were oblivious.

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  3. First off, I’ve promised myself to only blog 15 minutes per day on my trip, so consider it a huge compliment that I purposely landed here. Great story that we can all relate to. Who doesn’t like a coming-of-age tale? I can picture you chilling on the porch, sipping your lemonade while your sisters walked up. “What took you guys so long?”🤣 By the way, who couldn’t love your grandmother after reading this?

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    • Honestly, after I read your post about travelling then saw this comment, I was so honoured knowing you took a bit of time out of your day to read and comment! Thanks so much, Pete!

      Yes! My granny is the best! She’s still with us and fighting every day but it’s crazy to remember back to a time when we really relied on her for everything every day!!! After this post went live, my sisters and I reminisced about how crazy I used to be hahaha

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    • Haha I can imagine, I don’t actually remember if my granny ever told my parents or if she did, how they reacted! Just even thinking of having Charlotte be out of sight in a shopping market has me sweating! And she’s only 4!

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  4. This is a wonderful story. I relate to your desire to want to be free, but I’m not sure I’d have had the gumption to take the bus by myself at that age. As for your grandmother, what a good soul to wait for you kids to help you across the street.

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    • Yea I definitely had gumption and no idea of how dangerous this was! But in the end, it was a funny tale to retell and my sisters and I loved reminiscing about this one hehe… Yea, I have the best granny!!! 🙂

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  5. We were full of spunk and adventure when we were young weren’t we? I know my little friends and I were granted “big privileges” like crossing the main street after we left our own street (but only if we all held hands and crossed together), or we played all day by the creek, in the meadow, near the trees without incident, not near the watchful eye of our parents. We never thought of “stranger danger” or the other worries that parents worry about today.

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    • Yes, I honestly don’t remember my parents ever teaching us about stranger danger. If anything, I would have learned it in school but being a natural shy kid, any stranger person would have made me run! So I guess that was one good thing about being a bit timid! I love that you had that freedom. As for Charlotte, I want her to have a bit of both… enough freedom to feel like the world around her is a safe place to have hope and feel positivity but also, to be aware of her surroundings and understand the risks enough to take precautions! Not sure how that will play out but for now, we are going to be her shadows wherever she goes (other than school and at home) ! 😀

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      • I’d like to remember my homeland as a safer place than it is here in the States … but I know things have changed. Back in the early 60s, while I remember my mom saying “never get into a car with a stranger, even a neighbor, run home as fast as your legs can carry you” … I don’t think there were worries like today.

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      • That’s interesting that those were the things you heard from your mom.. I would think that’s more something you hear nowadays! I remember in the 90s it was very lax… although that could have been my parents LOL… I can’t imagine at what age I’d let Charlotte go on her own.. I am such a worry-wart but I try not to be.. (or at least I try not to project that for her sake….)… sigh.. but you can never be too careful though, right??

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      • You’re right Jen- don’t let Charlotte know how much you worry about her being out in the world, though I think today’s kids are smarter about what goes on beyond the confines of their home, than we ever were (especially me, as I am older than you, as I was born in 1956).

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    • yea thank goodness it was the right bus! I was old enough to recognize the streets and see my house still so that was good.. lol… I didn’t even feel anything other than my fierce competitive nature to rush home before my sisters got home lol so I guess I was happy to see my granny knowing she’d take me across the street asap!

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  6. When I was in my second year of secondary school, my brother (3 years younger) was transferred to the primary department of the same school. On his first day, he missed the bus home and I didn’t notice. It literally didn’t cross my mind for the whole 20 minutes of waiting for the bus, then catching and riding the bus. I may as well have been an only child. I only realised when walking up the lane to our home that there was someone missing. 🤯 Luckily, a teacher gave the poor, innocent, abandoned-by-his-sister 10 year old a lift home. #badsisterawards

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    • Awwwww how sad for your brother lol but at least in your story you didn’t PURPOSELY abandon him LOL… sadly I can’t say the same for me but I’ve learnt a lot since those days LOL (also, really nice of the teacher!)

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