By Melissa Osadchuck
I was nearing my fifth birthday as I sat on the carpeted floor watching Milo and Otis, a silent film about the unlikely friendship between a cat and dog. It was my favorite movie and I’d been permitted to watch it thanks to the dismal gray weather.
My mother had just jumped out of the shower and was quickly dressing. Three o’clock had arrived quickly and caught her unaware. She was off to pick up my big brother from school or risk facing after-care fees, something a pastor’s family simply couldn’t afford.
Throwing on the nearest pair of pants, her outfit was complete. She dashed to the kitchen, grabbed her purse, and searched high and low for the keys. Meanwhile, I watched my movie and wondered what all the scuffling was about.
Within a moment she was upon me.
“Melissa, time to go! We have to run get Erik and then you can come back and finish your movie, okay?”
No, it wasn’t okay and she needed to know! I threw a shameless tantrum.
“No, mommy. I don’t wanna go! I wanna finish my mooovie!”
“Melissa, come now. I’m asking you one more time, and then you get a spanking.”
“NOOO! I don’t wanna gooooo!” I screamed, releasing the pent-up energy of a week in one atomic shrill. I was not going to budge. Why did she need me to come along? I would just have to sit in that silly booster seat for twenty minutes while we drove there and back. Why couldn’t I just wait at home? My mother’s logic baffled me.
“Fine, Melissa Esther. I do not have time for this right now. We’re gonna be late to pick up Erik and you will have to pay the fee from your own piggy bank!” she hissed. Her nerves were wearing thin from my shenanigans.
“NOOO—I wanna watch my mooovieee!” I reiterated in piercing tones, just to make sure everyone knew my irreproachable rationale. With one fell swoop my mother picked me up and turned the TV off.
“I knew we never should have gotten that thing when we moved here,” she muttered. I didn’t have time to process. All I could do was kick and scream, and so I did. I made a perfect racket and finally, with one well-placed kick, slipped out of her arms and ran from the room.
“Melissa Esther Osadchuck! You are going to get it when I come back! I’m leaving! But don’t you dare open the door to anyone, do you hear me? And do NOT go outside!” With that she slammed the door.
All was suddenly silent. I crept back to the TV and analyzed my situation. Mother was gone and the TV was off. I was not yet adept at the art of knowing which button produced what result, so I tried a combination of them all. I wanted to finish the movie but after several fruitless attempts at turning it back on, I was stuck alone with the static.
Looking around for some sort of amusement, my eye stopped on the door-latch. Mother had said not to open it, not to go outside, but that somehow made it all the more alluring. I walked over to it. She hadn’t said the backyard was off limits, she had merely said not to go outside. With my four-year-old logic, I reasoned away the warnings and with a flip of the latch I opened the door and stepped into the fenced backyard.
At least we had a swing. I could play on that for a while until she came back. I hopped on and then realized I had nobody to push me. I tried pushing myself like Erik did. Legs forward, then backward. Arms tight. Swing. Legs, arms, swing. No, it wasn’t working. He would have to show me again when he got home.
I was bored. The swing hadn’t been much fun after all and the thought that Mother had said not to go outside kept nagging me. But there was nothing to do inside. Mother was the one who had turned off the TV after all, so she would understand. I nonchalantly opened the gate to the front yard—maybe it had more to offer.
I ran to the oak tree on one side of the lawn. It had branched into two from an early age, creating the perfect “V” shape for me to peek through. I waited to see what would pass by. A few cars passed and a neighbor from down the street jogged by.
Two more cars passed. Then a third one. But this one slowed down, then parked directly in front of my tree. I slid down from my stance and hid behind the trunk. Suddenly I felt waves of fear rush over me. I wanted to run back into the house and wait for Mother, but I couldn’t risk being seen; slowly I stood back up and peeked through the “V”. A forest-green jeep sat silently, waiting for me.
Suddenly the door popped open and a man leaned out.
“Hey there, little girl. Are you out here all alone?” his voice was gentle, almost sweet. But didn’t he know better than to open the door to strangers? Even I knew that. He was an adult, after all. I tried to respond, but something paralyzed me and I couldn’t speak. I stood there blank and pallid, wishing I hadn’t wandered outside.
It must have been fifteen minutes at least, for I counted several more cars and one neighbor. Finally, after what seemed an hour, a familiar car rumbled up the drive. Taking the situation in at a glance, my mother stopped mid-way and rolled down the window in disbelief.
The green-jeep man walked up.
“Is this your daughter, ma’am?” he asked.
“Yes, sir, she is,” she stammered. “I just left her at home because I had to run get my son because school was out and I would have to pay and, and I tried to take her with but she put up a fit and I couldn’t even carry her to the car for all her kicking! I told her not to open the door or go outside and now here she is and I just can’t believe–” The story tumbled out, mingled with tears.
“Ma’am, this is a federal offense. I could put you in jail for neglect, but I am going to write you an excuse. Just don’t do it again.” And with that he was gone.
Mother picked me up and squeezed me for what seemed like five minutes straight, sobbing. Although far from your ideal happily-ever-after, it was a welcome change from the spanking I expected.
Looking back on that day, I’ve since gleaned valuable lessons on togetherness, on the value of community. I’ve recognized that it is often during seasons of loneliness that we wander, that we explore forbidden realms in the hopes of amusing ourselves. We throw the latch open and step into the backyard, and when nothing feels out of place, venture to the front lines of the battlefield, confident in our own capabilities. And yet, it’s at this very moment that we are most vulnerable. It is at this very moment that the enemy can approach us with ease, luring us into his well-devised ploys. Think Eden. Think Eve.
But thankfully, we don’t ever have to be truly alone. Even in times when we’re physically separated, and Zoom calls are as good as it gets, there is still opportunity to connect! So don’t wait. Reach out now to those around you, and most importantly, reach out to the One who is not bound by space, time, or even Zoom. He’ll be thrilled to take your call.