Ellie comes running down the stairs holding a picture that Abby drew and she’s crying and shaking it at us. After a few muffled minutes, we calm her down and realize that Abby had told her she was running away. And she had drawn a picture to prove it. It was the outside of our house, complete with our whole family on one side (except Abby) and her on the other side, walking away.
We were understandably very sad in the picture. She, however, did not look fazed. She got a straight-line mouth instead of a sad one. I think I was waving. It was a pretty rough stick-figure scene.
“Abigail Grace, I need you to come to the kitchen right now so we can talk about this.”
I could hear her footsteps in the upstairs hallway as my mind flashed back to one of my poorly-planned attempts to
get attention run away from home.
We had just moved to Cincinnati from Japan and I was about to start sixth grade. Let’s just say my idea of fashion wasn’t necessarily in line with my new American school, but for some reason I had an image of what I wanted to wear and I begged my parents to take me to the mall so I could buy it.
In the event that you’re wondering, the dream outfit included a shirt, skirt, tights, headband, and shoes that were all various and inharmonious shades of magenta.
Magenta. I was always a step ahead on the trends.
So anyway, we went to Sears. Actually I think it was Sears-Roebuck. I don’t know. I just know it was 1988 and it was time to rock some McKids clothing.
In the event that you are puzzled by that last sentence because you were in Benetton or the Limited checking out Outback Red, let me tell you. The real party wasn’t at Camp Beverly Hills.
It was at Sears. Right by Ronald McDonald himself.
And yes, it was a clothing line launched by McDonalds, display complete with a 7 foot plastic cut-out of the red-headed-creepy-clown man. I don’t see how people resisted. I wasn’t that strong, I can tell you that.
I settle on this stunning ensemble (not one that they had put together, and kudos to me for shaking it up) and walk over to my dad to show it to him. Apparently Ronald had marked up his prices a bit more than my dad was willing to pay, and he shook his head and kept browsing.
I was devastated.
So much so that I decided to make a bold proclamation. One that should send fear to the hearts of every parent.
I took my clothes back and said, “OK, fine dad. You know what? You don’t even have to buy anything, so just FORGET IT.” Then, I did the dramatic walk-away. Nothing. He wasn’t budging. Time to step it up a notch.
(Insert “whip-around move complete with fake trembling lip” here).
“Because you know what, dad? I’m not even going home with you. I am going to live here.”
My dad looks around me while I nod my head like I’m confident about my decision.
“When you say, here, sweetie, can you tell me exactly where you mean? Cincinnati?”
Time for the big dogs, people.
“No, dad (fling hair, narrow eyes). I am going to live at Sears.”
Take that, Mr. Stingy.
I could see the breakdown in his eyes. He tried to mask his terror with a stifled laugh but I could see through it. He knew he was about to lose me to Ronald. Man, was he going to regret this for the rest of his life.
He nodded while I considered my brilliant plan. I started thinking it might not be believable so I decided to walk away. Let him think about what he had done and come find me to tell me I could indeed purchase the ticket to popularity.
He went back to browsing without saying another word, so I huffed off and found a spot on the other side of the department. I set my clothes under my head for a pillow and took off my coat to drape it over me like a blanket.
A few minutes later he peeked over the rack.
“Angela, what are you doing, honey?”
“I’m just settling in, dad. Just settling in to my new place.”
I adjusted my body around while pretending to get comfortable. There was a little T.V. playing ads for the clothing line so I continued. Poor guy. This was going to send him right over the edge.
“I mean look, dad. They’ve got T.V., they’ve got clothes, there are all kinds of nice people, and if I get hungry, I’ll just go on down to the food court.”
“Sweetie you don’t have any money.”
“Someone will help me. Some stranger will care about me and take care of me. You just go on home and don’t worry about me.”
I flipped over, staring at the wall while trying to hear if his feet were walking away.
He kneeled next to me.
“I don’t think this is a good choice Angela. Your mother, myself, and Jennifer are going to be very sad without you at the house. But, you’re a very smart girl and if you think this is the best thing for you, I want to try and help you. Why don’t I leave a little money here with you and I will make sure the saleslady watches over you. Whenever we can, we’ll come back and visit, okay?”
Awesome. Not only was I not getting my outfit, I was going to be living next to a plastic clown.
He actually got out his wallet and as soon as I heard it shuffling around I decided maybe I needed to reconsider my offer. My heart started pounding and I sat up and looked at him.
“I don’t want Jennifer to be sad. She really needs me, you know?”
He nodded, wallet still open.
“Well, kid, I’m going to head out and I’d love it if you came with me.”
I lifted the clothes from under my head and held them out for him to take to the register.
He took them from me and smiled. So really, all my hard work had paid off, despite my little circus scare.
“Thank you dad.”
“Oh don’t thank me, honey. Thank the saleslady. She’s going to help you find the racks to hang these all back up.”
Aaaaaand cue scene.
Abby walks into the kitchen and I hold up the picture. She’s looking at it, looking at me, and seeing how this new revelation is going to shake me.
“Ellie brought this to me, honey. She said you were going to run away and find a new house to live at. I don’t want you to do that, and neither do your sisters or your daddy.”
I paused. After all, I learned from the best.
“But you are a smart girl, and if you think this is a good decision, I will help you. Why don’t you take some time to pray about it and if you still think it’s best, mommy has some very nice friends who would let you stay with them for awhile.”
Her eyes widened.
I got down on my knees and looked her dead in the eye.
“And if you decide that this is not what you want, I would like for you to rip up this picture and throw it in the trash. And I do not want to hear about it again. Understood?”
She walked out of the room, and approximately 14 seconds later, returned with a shredded drawing and a new lease on life.
“I’m going to stay, momma.”
“Well I’m glad. Now go upstairs and clean your room like I asked you to an hour ago.”
I looked in the trash a few minutes later and started laughing. I could hear her chronicling her failed plan to Ellie and I couldn’t believe I was already on the other end of the conversation.
Later that night, I found her getaway bag in my closet (where she knew I would NEVER find it. Clever girl…). It contained 2 princess dresses, some fake grapes, a stuffed dog and her song-writing notebook.
I have to at least give her credit for the clothing choices.
Ronald would be proud.