Today is the last day of vacation bible school and Mom had dressed sister and I up in our Easter best. Our white hats and shoes matched our pastel blue with white laced trim dresses that both tied neatly in the back in a bow. I fidget the entire bus ride with my white lace gloves. Trying carefully to squish pudgy fleshy fingers down the narrow passages of the delicate lace. I couldn’t get the gloves on neatly and it bothered me all day long. I had been so distracted with my lace gloves that I never heard what the pastor said that excited everyone. I follow my sister to a line where they were serving snow cones! Sister was so excited and we waited patiently at the very end of the line. It was finally our turn, and the pastor hands us each a paper cup filled with sugary red ice. I am still focused and bothered with the lace bunny ears that now formed over the tips of my fingers. I watch as baby sister shoves her face into her paper cone. She looks up at me smiling and I watch the red sticky goodness pool into each corner of her mouth. We both giggle. I love to see her this happy and I will lie and tell Mom that the red stains on the front of her dress were not at all her fault. I lead her to the shade of an Olive tree where we sit away from the others while we enjoyed our cool treats.
Moments later I lead sister to the north side of the church property where I could help her wash up her hands and face. That was when I noticed that the bus was driving down the dirt road away from the property. I tried so hard to run after them screaming and waving my arms in the air, but it was already too late. Everyone was gone. They had left us. We were alone! Sister became so frightened that she panicked curled up into a ball and began sucking on her thumb. I knew that I had to be brave enough for both of us, and I had to find a way to get us home. I had also been left before. This feeling wasn’t new, not for me. I have forgotten all about my lace gloves now.
I have my baby sister hold on to the bow on the back of my dress and I tell her to just keep walking and to keep looking down at your feet. I know she’s frightened because she can’t stop sobbing, but I somehow remain calm and brave enough for both of us. I walk us carefully down the dirt road and we slowly made our way to the main highway. The fast and cold air that pushes off of the vehicles passing us snatched the breathe right out of my lungs. There was no sidewalk which meant there was no room for 2 small children to be passing as pedestrians. The police officer that eventually stopped traffic to pick us up told me we had walked over 3 miles. The church was over 6 miles from our home, and I only know that from having mapped it in my adult life.
I think about this event more now than ever because I realize this shaped and possibly defined who I am. I was so brave, fearless and so sure of myself at the age of 5.