At first, leaving my family was a fantasy I toyed with. How would my life be if I abandoned all my responsibilities? I’d be one of those despicable, sick creatures my mother talked about in shocked, hushed tones: women who walk out on their children. When I began to consider it seriously, I wondered why she had never whispered about the courage it must take to disappear with all those emotions fermenting away inside you.
At eight years old I ran away from home while Daddy was looking after me. I’d pushed open his office door and asked him to play with me, different games, dolls, tea parties. When finally he lost his temper I decided to run away, making it only so far as my grandparents’ tiny terraced house just up the road.
I knocked at the door.
“Darling. What are you doing here?” Granny opened the door wide. I stayed on the pavement.
“Running away from home. Don’t try and stop me.”
“I won’t, darling. Have you got provisions?” She smoothed down her flowery apron and stood, blocking the doorway.
“Got what?” I stepped onto the first step.
“Provisions; food, things you might need.” You won’t last long if you haven’t anything to eat.” Granny turned around and left me on the step. “I’ll see if I can find you something.”
I stepped into the sitting room and ran my hand along the back of the chair where Granddad used to sit. Its fabric had turned leathery like an old, bald teddy. I could still smell Granddad’s pipe tobacco.
“You’ll need a label too, so people know who you are. Have you got anything to put the digestive biscuits in?” I shook my head. She went back into the pantry for a roll of greaseproof paper.
We sat there for an hour, drinking sweetened tea while I traced my finger along the lacy tablecloth but Granny never asked me why I’d run away. I walked back along the road, over the railway bridge, which had no pavement and was therefore strictly forbidden and turned into the yard where Daddy was closing the garage doors. He greeted me, no idea that I’d ever been gone.
Today, I’ve decided. I want to pack a bag and leave home. I’ve thought about what life might be like without duties, about money and how I could earn enough to live. I could get a little job and have a flat. In these thoughts I’d be happy, have a new life, be a new person who could make a valuable contribution.
What stops me?
The thought of life without him; and I love them and don’t want to hurt them.
But that isn’t what prevents me from walking away. Not the lucid thoughts of real life and how to finance it, or how to answer questions about what went wrong. No, what stopped me entertaining thoughts of leaving was the sudden knowledge that I’d have to take me with me.