Recently I was asked to submit a story for a friend’s book that has since been published. Here is one of many you can read in Sheryl Letzgus McGinnis latest book Addiction Collateral Damage: The Other Victims of Addictions.
When my son, Jim, was six he decided to run away from home. He calmly announced his intention on a Sunday evening after dinner. Already showing a sense of humor that never failed to amuse those around him, I remember smiling at his self assured little self. When asked why, he said, “It’s time I lived somewhere else.”
At the front door, he pulled down a jacket and his ice skates. Casually tossing his skates over his shoulder, off he went. Bemused rather than concerned his father and I watched through the curtains as he made his way towards the parking lot in our townhouse complex. Not a sole was out on this cold night. Jimmy never looked back. The vision of the towheaded child with skates still floats in my mind bringing a smile to my heart.
Assuming we’d have to go get him if he went out of sight, it wasn’t necessary in the end. At the edge of the parking area, he turned and headed back towards the house. Ducking away from the windows, we waited. The door bell rang! Confused that he didn’t just walk in, I opened the door and said, “Yes, young man, can I help you?”
In a very matter of fact way, he said, “My name is Jimmy and I need a place to stay.” Playing along I invited him in asking if he was hungry or needed a drink of water. “No,” he said, “I’ve already ate.” We invited him to stay with us telling him we used to have a little boy named Jimmy. This “other” Jimmy was invited to take advantage of the vacant room we had, that he might fit into the clothes left behind and so forth. When I told him to hang up his coat and skates, he didn’t blink.
“Where should I put my coat?” WHAT????!! He was standing in front of the open closet with his hockey bag right in front of him! He acted as if he had never seen anything before. I was getting a little confused. Wasn’t he pulling our leg?
And this is how it continued for almost a full week! That first night I said it was time for bed and sent him up to brush his teeth, get his jammies on… he just looked at me. “I don’t know where the room is. Do I have a toothbrush here?” Okay…this was getting more interesting by the moment. All we could do was play along and see where it took us.
Each day Jimmy stayed in character…asking about where he went to school, what he clothes he had wear, who was his teacher. Reading before bed, I’d forget and pull out a Dr. Seuss book – a long time favorite. He’d challenge me as to how I knew what he wanted to read… innocent as a lamb day after day. His dad would call him “Buddy” and he’d asked why he had that nickname. It was charming and a bit disarming.
Saturday evening after dinner a week later, this “other” Jimmy solemnly announced that he had to go home. He was sure his mom and dad were missing him. We were thanked for letting him use our son’s room, clothes and toothbrush and he was sorry he had to leave. Our hearts just kept melting as we smiled (probably like idiots) at this sparkling, creative creature who was gracing our presence.
We told him how much we had enjoyed having him and were sorry to see him go. He returned to the closet once again putting on his jacket and tossing his skates over a shoulder. He waved good bye to us at the bottom of the steps as he turned towards the parking lot. Again, we peeked out of the curtains to keep an eye on him. As before at the edge of the parking lot, he turned and headed towards us. He skipped a bit perhaps in a hurry to be coming home?
This time though he burst through the front door hollering, “Mommy and Daddy, I’m home!” We rushed to him, catching him up in hugs and kisses telling him how much he was missed. He told us that we shouldn’t have worried; he had stayed with a very nice family. They let him use a little boy’s room, they fed him, took him to school. They were very nice but not as good as his own mommy and daddy. We told him of this “other” Jimmy and he thought that was “nice”. “So, you weren’t lonely when I was gone?” he asked. We assured him it was just not the same; the “other” Jimmy was a good boy, but nothing was better than our own Jimmy.
And that was the end of it all. Well, almost. Occasionally Jimmy would talk about running away then stop, and say, “but I like it best here.” For a number of years he would often ask one of us, “Do you remember when I ran away from home. That was cool!”
He continued to keep us on our toes and in stitches but he never changed his story! Ever!