I was five years old when I was left alone in a supermarket.
I turned around. Dad and my brother were gone. Alone in one of the cereal aisles, I looked for them. Panic. I started walking faster, looking aisle after aisle for them. I headed towards the cashiers, where a large black lady was at the till. “Have you seen my father?” I asked with a quiver. I felt the tears gathering at the bottom of my eyelids. “No honey, sorry.”
I walked faster, half running now. Left, right, back – no sign of dad and bro. I was completely alone. Past the storybook and magazines. Past the candy aisles and the bread section. Would I know my way back home? It’s not that far. I can probably walk it. But they have been teaching us at school about those scary strangers that try to lure you away with turtles, or liquorice. Will I be kidnapped?
When I walked past the entrance’s sliding doors and stood outside, I saw them. Dad and brother were crouching low behind a green bush held by a square concrete pot. The parking lot was behind them. I saw their movement, I recognized Dad’s hair. Dad realised I had discovered them. I walked towards them both, not understanding the practical joke.
“See if that teaches you a lesson!” dad said.
Lesson? The lesson was, I shouldn’t have browsed the aisles alone; I shouldn’t have wandered too far off when Dad told me to stick close to the group. He must have told me not once, but a few times to stay together. But I’ve always had a wandering mind. I get caught up looking at a new cookie design. I get mesmerised by the colourful candy rows. I stay too long reading a story book or the cover of those shiny magazines. And before I know it, I’m all alone.
So to teach me never to wander off again, he takes my brother and fake abandons me. It was only a couple minutes. 10 minutes at most probably. But I utterly, wholly felt alone and abandoned those few moments Dad and Bro were gone. I felt betrayed too.
There was a deep sense of shame and embarassment after I found them. Dad yelled at me for a short while. Bro was silent. I remember thinking whether he found it funny, me getting yelled at. There was sibling love but also a bit of rivalry for affection at that age. I remember crying all the way home.
To this day I remember it all. It may have shaped my fear of abandonment in relationships in general. I still hold that it was unjust to have left me there, for such a minor error. I still believe that that particular incident was crap parenting.
I guess we all have scars from growing up.
What traumatizing childhood experiences do you remember? How did it change the way you live today?