The Escape Artist

I was visiting my Aunt this evening and she told me that she and my mother talked about me all day as they were hanging out. My mom was calling me the ring-leader of everything bad that took place in her four children’s lives. “But,” my Aunt said, “she said you were more known for escaping, or wandering off, and usually dragging others into it.” She proceeds to tell me two stories that I have heard hundreds of times in my life. I was too little to remember said events, but they go like this…

Incident One
Date: Early to mid 1981
Location: A shopping mall in Orlando, FL
Adults involved: My parents

Little Aeonn is in a stroller and is only about a 1 1/2 years old. We are in a store inside a shopping mall. (This is where the story changes between the adults involved. My mom says we were in a bookstore. My dad specifically remembers being in a Spencer’s gift store… which is kind of gross). My parents are pushing the stroller through the store, pausing to look at items, still strolling, still pausing, and then my dad realizes that I am no longer in the stroller. Or in the store. He has no idea how long I have been gone or where I have gone to. They exit the store and head to the center of the mall. They frantically look for me. They call security. They call the local police. They make an announcement in the mall. My mom swears I have been kidnapped, knows she can’t pay the ransom, and is planning my funeral in the mall. 15 minutes later, an older couple is walking from the other end of the mall holding my hand. I had exited the stroller, exited the store, and walked to the other end of the mall and into Sears at 18 months old. Escape 1.

Incident Two
Date: Early to mid 1984
Location: Zares in Pensacola, FL
Adults involved: My mother and Aunt Katie

Incident two finds us in a Zares which is sort of like a Target or Venture. It sold household items, clothing, etc. Little Aeonn is 4 and her Aunt Katie is visiting Florida from New Orleans, LA where she attended college. They are out looking for a spool of a certain color thread. While the adults are in the aisle discussing said spool, Little Aeonn grabs 3-year-old sister Nancy’s hand and decides that they have better things to do. The adults are still discussing thread color, which is apparently enthralling, riveting even, when they realize that the cotton-top kids are missing. They begin to look for them. Ultimately, they go to the front of the store and request that the store doors be locked and that everyone should stop what they are doing and find these children. The store makes an announcement over the intercom, “Little Aeonn and Little Nancy… your mother is looking for you.” They are darting up and down aisles, calling the local news, requesting the Navy get involved, and eventually find us where one would expect to find two small children in a department store, bouncing a ball in the toy section. Escape 2.