It was sometime in 1950, when I was about five years old. My dad was a busy pediatrician and my mom was raising me and my younger siblings, Steve and Connie. My two youngest brothers, Peter and David, would come along later. Our house was a in a quiet tree-lined neighborhood in the enclave of Ottawa Hills, which was completely surrounded by the city of Toledo, Ohio. I have only a hazy memory of the episode I will describe, but I'm sure my parents remembered it for the rest of their lives.
One Sunday afternoon, my dad and brother had walked to a mailbox a couple blocks away. After a bit, my mom suggested I walk that way and meet them. Well, I somehow took a wrong turn and ended up on Secor Road. Today, this street is a thriving commercial area, but back then it was relatively quiet, especially on a Sunday when most businesses were closed. Apparently, I was unperturbed that I had not encountered my dad and little brother, so I just kept walking. I had covered nearly two miles when I spotted one of my favorite spots - Dagwood's Diner. Somehow, I crossed the street to get there. Why no adult had questioned why this little girl was completely on her own is a mystery, but it was a different era.
Dagwood's had an outside window where you could get ice cream, so I boldly walked up and requested a strawberry cone. I don't remember whether someone paid for it or they just gave it to me, but I was soon enjoying the treat. At this point, I made a right-hand turn onto Sylvania Avenue and kept walking. It may have looked familiar to me, because my grandparents lived just a few blocks away. On I walked, licking my ice cream cone. By this time, I had covered another half mile or so.
Soon, I arrived at another place I loved - the pony rides. An enterprising guy had built a corral on a vacant lot and had several ponies that kids could ride. I remember begging my dad to stop there. After hanging around for a while, I cadged a pony ride from the owner. Unbelievably, a parent of one of my dad's young patients recognized me from a photo he kept in his office. They got in touch with him immediately, of course, and I was taken home to my worried parents who had been searching for me for hours.
I do not remember getting scared or upset at any point during this escapade, and when I arrived home, couldn't understand why everyone was in such a panic. I do remember that I wasn't scolded or punished, just given a nice dinner. When I was raising my own three kids, I often thought of the terror my parents must have felt while their little girl was missing for such a long time. Who knows, perhaps this extraordinary journey gave me the confidence I have always felt as an adult.
I'm Chris Barabasz, retired from a 35-year career managing communications for health care development (that's fundraising for you civilians). I'm a wife, mother, grandmother and freelance writer. My husband Andy and I moved from Delaware to Texas to be closer to our daughters and three adorable grandchildren.