Today's post is very serious. It's something happened when I was much younger, and at the time I didn't realize the seriousness of it. I've told the story from time to time over the years and each time I tell it, it hits me more. So today, I am finally sharing my story.
Remember at the time, I didn't realize it was a big deal and for many years after it I still didn't realize. That's the beauty of being a kid, you are resilient and ignorant and life is fun and easy. Because of all this, it's not etched into my mind the exact time of the year or the exact age I was but I know that I was between the ages of 8 and 12. I grew up in a nice neighborhood and my street was over a mile long. Because of that, it was a great street for riding my bike on. Back and forth back and forth. I'd wave to all the neighbors and enjoy my rides. I can't even tell you how many miles I must have rode each day.
Anyways, above is a diagram I made. My street ends with a cul-de-sac. And the green stuff is the grass because towards the end of the street there are only houses on the one side of the street. After the cul-de-sac there is a pathway that led to a sewer plant. And coming off that path was a driveway (the garage of that last house faces away from the cul-de-sac so you can only see it from the sewer plant. Remember that detail. Trust me. It's what I think saved me.
So there I am, little Ellen moseying along on my bike. As I got towards the last 1/8 of a mile of my street I waved at a neighbor I saw and crossed over to ride on the sidewalk on the side of the street with the houses. As I rode I noticed an older beat up car was coming up behind me. I kept slightly turning my head so I could see without it being obvious. I started to slow down and I realized the car would slow down too. It was clunky and loud so I could tell how fast or slow it was going by the noises it made.
I remember thinking to myself 'am I being followed?' so I sped up, only to notice the car sped up as well. All I remember about the car is that it was old (not shiny), boxy, and silvery gray. I was nearing the cul-de-sac and feeling nervous because I would have to pass by this car in order to turn around and go back the other way. I couldn't believe this car was going as slow as I was. No one was around. I sensed something was wrong.
I approached the back end of the cul-de-sac near the path to the sewer plant and I headed down towards it, stopping near the end of the driveway belonging to that last house (you know, the one whose garage faces AWAY from the street). I knew the people that lived there and knew they weren't home because their cars weren't on the street. Shy little me, knew it would be okay and not embarassing for me to do what I had in mind. As I reached the driveway, I turned around to see the car stopped in the middle of the cul-de-sac with the drivers door hanging wide open, and a skinny taller adult man with long brown stringy hair walking away from the car towards me. He wasn't saying anything. My first thought was "I know I'm too young to know directions so why would this man be coming towards me to ask directions when there were adults outside further up the road." I didn't know what he could want or who he could be and my young brain didn't even try to figure that out. But It was a danger and my instincts told me that.
In that instant I hopped off my bike and began walking it up that driveway towards the closed garage (remember, the guy couldn't see that the garage was closed) and I said out loud "Dad, I think there's something wrong with my bike. Can you fix it?" For all he knew, the garage was open and my dad was standing right there working on his car or something.
In that instant, the man turned right around, walked back to his car, closed the door, turned around and drove off. I stood at their garage door for a minute or two until the car was gone. Then I rode my bike some more, before finally heading home. I think it was a month or two later I mentioned it to my mom casually. I assumed I had over thought the whole thing but I knew I must have scared the guy off. My mom seemed alarmed and she ended up asking the neighbor who last saw me and waved at me if she saw a car like that right after she saw me. She said she did remember an old clunky car.
Other than that, we didn't think anything of it because I was so not alarmed and it truly could have just been someone looking for directions. It's not until now that I remember more details like the car color. Back then I just remembered it was old. Now I have more vivid memories.
I rarely thought about it after that except for several years later when I was much older and out of school and would watch movies about abductions. That's when I started piecing it together more.
My mom had been very proud of how I handled it which I do credit her with. She had always instilled in us great values to trust our gut and our instincts no matter what anyone else says or does. We weren't sheltered at all. We were allowed to roam the neighborhood everyday just like all of the other kids (like 10 or 15 of them). We always travelled in great numbers and we always were friendly with neighbors. Most people that drove down our street lived their because it was a dead end so no one was ever just passing through unless they took a wrong turn.
A vivid memory that happened before this incident was when my mom had told me and my brother we weren't allowed to go on the bike path (it was back way behind the cul-de-sac) alone. So one day when me and my little brother took a walk and told her we were only going to the cul-de-sac, she didn't believe us. So she snuck along and followed. Me and my brother were walking through the wooded bike path area giggling and talking when we heard a corny voice (my mom trying to talk like a man) shout " HEY! YOU KIDS! COME OVER HERE!" We both screamed and started to panic with tears in her eyes. She popped out from around the bend, and apologized but told us that she was trying to show us that scary things can happen if we don't listen to her rules. So we never went down there again until we were older and allowed. We knew danger existed. And that day she scared me I had a bad feeling in my gut. It was the same bad feeling I had on my bike in the cul-de-sac years later. And another feeling that was the same was my urge to pretend I had an adult near me. Because that day on the trail, when my mom yelled like a man and scared me I remember a voice in my head saying "Pretend your mom or dad is with you", assuming the person yelling at us couldn't see us because we couldn't see him, so how would he know we were lying. My mom always taught us that lying was okay when it came to protecting yourself. If someone ever called, we were never allowed to say that our parents weren't around even if they really were busy or outside doing yard work. We knew that you had to be smart in life.
What's funny is that at the time of the cul-de-sac bike ordeal it wasn't scary at all and I never thought of it as the scariest day of my life until now. Until now, when I look in the mirror as I'm brushing my teeth and I think "wow, I might not be here today, brushing my teeth if things had been different." Or maybe I would..... Or maybe I wouldn't....