When I was 7 or 8 I became very good friends with a girl named “Mary”. She was a year younger than me, and her mother was somewhere around her mid-thirties. We were often at each others’ houses whether on weekdays or weekends. Our mothers, while not friends, were friendly and trusted each other. If Mary was at my house and my mother was going somewhere, she’d take us with her. If Mary’s mother was going out, she’d do the same. If one of our mothers saw an item of clothing or other item that was unique or useful, she would pick one up for the other child. If we went out to eat, the other child came along. If we had dinner while one was at the other’s house, they would have dinner too. It was a nice setup, and many happy memories were built around my time with Mary. I should add that these were the days before play dates and helicopter parenting.
When Mary’s mother took us out, we’d always be home by 6 or 7pm at the very latest. Usually 6pm for dinner reasons. These were all car trips, and most of them were on school nights. However, one weeknight during the school year, we didn’t get home by 6pm. Or 7. In fact, as the evening rolled around, we kept going and ended up at one of Mary’s relatives houses. I was okay, but as the clock ticked, I started to feel a bit weird. I assumed that Mary’s mother would ask me for my house number so she could phone my mother or grandmother to say we’d be late. She didn’t. This was in the days before cell phones, so a payphone or a house phone was the only chance to make a call. If I recall correctly, all I had said to my grandmother was that I’d be at a friend’s house, so I wasn’t even sure my family would have figured out I was with Mary without their making calls to my friends’ houses. Mary’s parent’s were separated for a while, so no one would have answered their home phone if my family called. I hoped they’d figure things out from this.
I was too afraid at that age to ask what was going on or why Mary’s mother wasn’t calling my family. I also was very hungry as we hadn’t eaten. This was out of character for her to keep me so late, and I was confused. She was visiting with her relatives while Mary and I chatted to other children, and remember, I trusted Mary’s mother. I didn’t want to upset her by questioning her.
We left the relatives after 10pm and I thought we were finally going home. By this point I was very worried and starting to feel shaky. However, since I thought we were finally going home, I thought all was well. Unfortunately, it wasn’t.
At 11pm we ended up at a restaurant where a number of people that Mary’s mother knew or were related to were gathering (maybe 10 or so). It was just a casual get together, nothing more. However, I was starting to become so nervous that I started to feel sick. I started worrying about being yelled at, and about school the next day. At 8 I was thinking these things but too afraid or unable to vocalize it. So it came out as illness instead. I started to have bad stomach pains and other worry related pains that I couldn’t understand at that age. Near 11:30pm it became so bad that Mary’s mother got flustered with me and told one of her friends what to order for her so said could take me home. I have a very clear memory of Mary comforting me, but her mother acting as if I was a pest.
When we got in the car, I realized Mary’s mother was angry. Very angry. She took me in the car alone to my house (not very far, but at the time I had absolutely no clue where we even were!). She stayed silent the entire time and had a face like stone. I got home and my family was relieved, but very confused by Mary’s mother’s actions. I remember them chatting about it and not understanding why she did what she had.
The next time I saw Mary, she told me her mother was very angry at me and that she would NEVER take me anywhere again. I couldn’t believe it because even at that age I knew she was at fault. When I saw her mother later that day, she was very cold to me, but I figured that would fade as she was angry at herself. I felt she had to be! I don’t know if my mother spoke to Mary’s mother about this or not, but I know she didn’t tell Mary’s mother I could no longer go anywhere with them as she would have told me the same thing and told me never to get in a car with her again.
The next time Mary and her mother were going to go somewhere while I was over at their house (within a week or two of the late night incident), Mary’s mother told me they were going somewhere so I had to go home. I did so, feeling very hurt and very much like I was guilty of something. I felt ashamed almost, as if she wanted me to feel guilty for something I knew was not my fault.
This continued and Mary’s mother would send me home when they went somewhere and was always cold to me. It hurt me horribly. Strangely, I started seeing less of Mary. She wasn’t there at our usual times as much. I don’t know if that was done on purpose by her mother or not, but I knew something wasn’t right and it hurt. The next year when Mary turned 9 I was invited to a party at a roller rink, and they did take me in their car (along with a number of other children), but Mary’s mother was still cold despite a few happy words to me due to it being Mary’s birthday. By this time Mary didn’t seem to be that concerned with me as a friend since we didn’t see each other much anymore. Unfortunately, for a short while after the birthday party I was praying that Mary’s mother had forgiven me due to having driven me to the party, and that things would return to normal. I recall trying to see Mary a bit more than usual, but things didn’t snap back.
I saw Mary sporadically (it was harder and harder to catch her!), and only found out that she’d moved when I went to her house one day and someone else came out saying that they were the new owners. I later went to a little store Mary’s mother had owned so I could find out where they went, but she had apparently sold it and none of the new employees knew who she was. That was the end of things.
I did see Mary once more years later. She was a late arrival at my high school and spotted me (she was a Freshman, I was a Sophomore). We said a few words, but I felt funny and uncomfortable around her. She was so different to me by this point and I still felt shamed by her mother. Strangely, despite it being a school of only about 400 students, I never saw her again after our brief re-introduction!
I’ve often wondered what was going through her mother’s mind that day we were out all night, but I’ve never figured it out. The fact that she punished an 8 year old girl due to her mistake and ruined her daughter’s friendship due to it boggles me. She was never somebody who seemed to be excessively prideful, but somehow this incident hit a nerve of hers. 0109-11