The night I ran away

Perhaps every child has thought, at one time or another, of running away from home. Most do not, having the wisdom to get over hurt feelings and stay put in the warmth of their parents' love. But some actually do run away. I was one of these. I even snitched my father's suitcase to pack my things in, my father's beloved suitcase. It had belonged orig-inally to his great-grandfather, who brought it with him from Poland to America, with all his worldly goods in it. Though small - 2 ft. by 2 ft. - it was deep and sturdy. Outside it was soft brown leather, and inside, mulberry-colored cloth. Many fingers, thimbles, needles, and threads had mended and remended it over the years. Its handle had a lining of genuine fleece, very sweet to hold.

Full of a hurt I have long since forgotten, I left on the door to my room the note, ``Papa, Mama, I'm running away. You'll be sorry.'' Then I sneaked out of the house, carrying the suitcase packed with my favorite toys, books, and clothes.

It was night, and snowing heavily. Clouds and clouds of snow swirled endlessly ahead. Flakes landed in my eyelashes, sticking there and making me blink. Lights in lampposts high above the blotted-out streets and side-walks seemed to spin and spin ever more slowly, like tops forgotten by sleepy children.

I got as far as a hill overlooking railroad tracks, about two blocks from home. A big, sooty blur that was a locomotive pulling a long line of freight cars puffed by. For a moment I had the notion to run down the hill and hop aboard, go make my brave way in the world alone. But then I thought of my father, and how in his work he often had to take trains to go places, and how lost he would be without his suitcase. And I thought, too, of my warm room. I turned back and headed home.

Halfway there, my father met me. He had followed my footprints in the snow. I stopped before him, feeling foolish and guilty. ``It's not mine,'' I said, holding the suitcase out to him. ``It's yours.''

He took it, then knelt down and embraced me. He wouldn't let me walk back home but insisted on carrying me. With one hand he carried the suitcase, and with the other, snug against his shoulder, me.

My mother was waiting for us on the lighted porch. When she saw me, all sticky-wet with snow, she didn't know whether to scold me or cry for gladness. She wrung her hands and said, ``Just look at that boy!''

I never ran away from home again.

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