Adventure or gut-wrenching fear? It all depends on your point of view!
In August 1995, Gramma and Grampa went camping in Nickerson State Park on Cape Cod with Steve, Kathi, Megg (11), and Laura (6). This was the trip when our girls and two other children from a nearby camp site disappeared into the woods, their whereabouts unknown for what seemed an eternity. I don’t remember how long they were gone, but it was long enough for many campers to get the word and start looking; long enough for Steve to go to the office and call the police; long enough for the police to arrive and join the search. It was long enough for discomfort to turn to fear; long enough for fear to turn to terror.
Many people walked the trails calling the girls names again and again. No response. Finally I got in our car and drove to an adjacent circle of camp sites. I parked in an empty site; just as I got out of the car, the girls appeared at the head of a trail leading into the site. When they saw me, they turned and started back into the woods. “You girls come back here this minute and get in the car or you will be in really big trouble,” I shouted in a tone of voice Megg and Laura had never in their lives heard come out of Gramma’s mouth. They slunk back and got in the car. But the other two girls, who didn’t know me, high-tailed it back into the woods. Calling to them was of no avail.
“But Gramma, we were having an adventure,” they told me in self defense. I drove them back to our camp site and showed the other set of parents where their daughters were last seen. Eventually we found them, but it took awhile. You wouldn’t think they could disappear again so fast.
The police wanted to see and talk to the girls to verify that they were really accounted for and OK, and to admonish them about the dangers of secretly wandering off. Our girls by this time had disappeared into their tent. Megg came out and talked to the police, but Laura remained inside with a pillow over her head, weeping. The police stood at the tent door and asked her to come out. No deal. Laura was firm in her intention to hide from the law. We finally coerced her out from under her pillow and the protection of her tent. She did survive her interview with the police, but not happily!
All four girls steadfastly maintained that they never heard anyone calling them. They just went on an adventure in the woods, the highlight of which was the following of trails and marking where they had been. A few rocks here, a pile of twigs there, a stick pointing the direction at a fork, etc. I’ve never been able to believe that they really didn’t hear us. I suspect it was all part of a game of evading pursuers. They felt perfectly safe, so why should the big people worry? However, they scared about ten years off our lives that day and I do not intend to let them forget it!