Little kids have their own ideas about what it means to
be independent and make their own decisions.
Read about MaryAnn and Karen, age 3 and 4,
and their true adventure one cold winter morning
on Bainbridge Island, Washington -- about 1950.
My best childhood friend Karen and I were barely four years old when we decided to head out on our own one early November morning, our first of many such independent deeds. Our favorite babysitter, Mrs. Comer, lived several miles across the island in the little town of Winslow, Washington on Bainbridge Island. We loved Mrs. Comer and were keenly aware that her St. Bernard had a litter of new puppies we had never seen. I told Karen we could visit Mrs. Comer and see the puppies, and that I knew the way to walk there all by ourselves. She wasn't so sure, but she agreed, knowing those puppies would be fun to play with in Mrs. Comer's big back yard.
We were wearing play-clothes, thin little
shoes with white anklets, and lightweight cardigans. It was frosty cold, even
icy as I remember. We started out from Karen's house on Wing Point, and of
course we didn't bother to tell anyone. We walked across the golf course to
save time, but our feet rapidly became wet slugging through the frosty grass. I
remember looking at Karen's black patent leather shoes with the thin white
anklet socks trimmed in fluffy lace, thinking how pretty they were and
extremely shiny with ice on them, like glittery jewels. My sneakers and were
holding up pretty well, but were not nearly as exquisite as her shoes in their
By the time we were about two thirds of the way there and nearing the firehall, Karen was crying (shuddering sobs, actually). She was so cold that she was shaking, her feet hurt, and she was scared. I kept telling her that we were almost there, and that Mrs. Comer would make everything better, something I truly believed. Mrs. Comer loved us and cared about us! We had to keep going! And I wanted to see those new St. Bernard puppies! I knew there were eight of them, and I was anxious to count them one by one like my brother had taught me.
I don't know how long this walk took. Time was lost as we trudged, putting one icy foot in front of the other. But finally we were ringing Mrs. Comer's doorbell. I can still remember the look on her face when she opened the door and there we were, bright pink cheeks and noses, shivering, and one of us smiling. She said, "Where is your mother, out in the car?" I said, "No, I think she is at home." Her mouth dropped open. I remember that clearly.
Our parents all arrived within a very short time all at once, all four of them. They had been looking for us and were frantic with worry. And now that they knew we were safe, they were allowing themselves to be angry. Karen's parents especially. Karen got a spanking right there at Mrs. Comer's house in front of everyone. I didn't, but I was plenty worried. We were lectured severely and taken home. (I never did get a spanking; I guess I didn't need one to learn from this experience.)
I remember several days later I wanted to play with Karen. But my mom said I couldn't because Karen had pneumonia. She was very sick. She was sick for six very long weeks. I missed her and I knew it was my fault. Thankfully, she recovered and became my playmate again. I don't believe her parents ever forgave me entirely. Possibly that is because I taught Karen how to throw rocks at the windows of an empty beach cabin later that spring when she was feeling better. The worst part is, we never got to play with those puppies!