28: Abandonment

28: Abandonment

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Spirit of America


At the end of the day, a loving family should find everything forgivable.

~Mark V. Olsen

It was one of the highlights of my childhood, the year my parents took the four of us on a cross-country trip from the East Coast to the West in a station wagon and a trailer that we shared with our cousins. The trailer at night was transformed into a little house including a kitchen, storage and bedrooms for six and a dog. Bathrooms, electric and water hook ups were supplied by the campgrounds for a nominal fee.

While we were camping in northern Kentucky our dog, who was mostly Beagle, made a friend. She was a black, white and brown puppy who seemed to have been abused and then abandoned by her owner. The poor little thing was afraid and had been hiding out in a drainpipe.

Our family decided to save the pup. We offered her food, water and a bed but she still wouldn’t come out of the drainpipe. Eventually my father frightened her at one end of the pipe so that she would run out the other side, into our open arms.

After both dogs sniffed each other, the puppy, who we named Kentucky, joined our family. I got the honor of sleeping with her the first night.

We drove on, fighting with each other, complaining of boredom, and tiring of the scenery outside as it turned into mostly farmland. Finally, at the Illinois/Indiana border, we stopped for gas and a break.

As we all slid in, my mother asked me to count everyone to see if we were all there. Since I was the oldest at age twelve I took my job seriously.

Barry, eleven, was sitting in the back row, reading. Beth, five, was sitting next to the dogs, and Brian, seven, had already fallen asleep (a habit he seemed to be a master at) in the well with a blanket over his head. In those days station wagons came not only without seat belts in the back seat, but also with a “well” — the space between the second row and the rear facing third row.

“All accounted for.” I told my mother.

And off we went. We passed the border and drove deep into Illinois, passing fields of corn and wheat. We stayed pretty quiet since Brian was sleeping. In fact it was a very quiet trip. Finally we reached a mountain scene and it was breathtaking. A waterfall fell from the top of a mountain, cascading along the rocks and producing a brilliant full rainbow. My father wanted to take a family photo in front of it.

We all left the car and posed in front of this colorful majestic sight. But Brian was still sleeping. “Wake him up; this is too beautiful to miss. Besides how long does he need to sleep?” my father asked.

I went to wake Brian up in the well and discovered there was no Brian under that blanket.

Within two minutes we were all in the car heading back to the gas station. We were speeding and were a bit afraid when we kept noticing police cars heading in the opposite direction. They didn’t seem to notice our hurry. Yet as we crossed the border back into Indiana, a police car materialized in front of us. He pulled us over.

“Did you abandon your kid in a gas station a few miles back?” he asked accusingly.

“FORGOT my kid!” my mother corrected him with indignation. “Is he okay?”

The police officer followed us back to the gas station, where we found Brian having a blast. The gas attendants had shown him how to pump gas and lift up cars on the hydraulic lift; and they had given him an ice pop. He was having a great time and had no interest in coming with us.

Since the gas station had only written down the license plate of our trailer, which had our cousin’s New York plates and not our New Jersey plates, the police never noticed our speeding station wagon as we had raced back to the Indiana border. Only when the police saw both the station wagon and trailer did they know who we were.

Although my parents (particularly my mother) found it to be a harrowing experience, Brian still remembers the day fondly.

And we got to see a little more of America.

~Tziyona Kantor

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