RUNNING AWAY FROM HOME – 1976

For my 16th birthday, I thought I was going to see The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac perform; instead, I got a trip to a diving camp at De Anza College in Cupertino, CA.  What you have to understand is from as far back as I can remember, I always told my mother I was moving to California.  I just knew I was meant to be here.  I was to be gone for 2 or three weeks (can’t remember now) and would stay with my grandmother in Palo Alto on the weekends and my aunt and uncle in Sunnyvale during the week, so my aunt could take me to diving practice.  I flew into San Jose in the evening, with temperatures in the 80s.  That didn’t bother me in the least, as I lived in Atlanta and we had no air conditioner in the house.  No one did back then.  This was, though, a heat wave and when the temperatures went back to normal, I about froze to death.  I could not wear shorts past 3p.  Seriously!  Anyway, in between my all day diving practice during the week, I still managed to meet a boy, and for the life of me, I cannot remember his name anymore.  He was the son of a friend of my aunt and uncle.  Well, I thought I was in serious love and, unbelievably, he even asked me to marry him!  At 16!  Of course I said yes!  I was 16 and when a boy asks you to marry him at 16, what else would you say?  The fact that we lived clear across the country from each other didn’t seem to be a problem for either of us.  Nor that we were still in high school!  What can I say?  Needless to say, when my time in California was over, I went back to Georgia.  We wrote letters full of, I’m sure, declarations of undying love.

I am sure I’ve mentioned that I grew up with a bunch of monkeys, make that brothers, and to say that we mostly did not get along would be an understatement.  (I so wanted to be an only child.)  My brothers were mean and teased me non-stop.  My mother was not a lot of help.  She would simply say,’ ignore them, they’ll go away.’  Ah, no, not only did they not go away, they continued to make me miserable.  I very much loved my time in California when I was free of them.  So that fall, my junior year of high school, which by the way, I also hated, but that’s another story, I had had enough of them and their juvenile ways.  I decided I needed to get back to where I was the happiest I had ever been, which was California.  I came up with a plan to make that happen.  The only problem was airplane tickets were expensive, and I had no money to speak of.  It wasn’t ideal, but I settled on taking the bus, a 4 day trip.    The ticket, if I remember correctly, was only about $50 compared with about $200 for a one-way flight.  I did not tell anyone, least of all my best friend, Cathy.  It seemed smarter that the less people who knew, the greater my chance of successfully making it across the country would be.

The morning of my departure I took the bus to school as normal, but I packed a bag and hid it in the bushes outside the school.  Part of my plan meant taking MARTA, the public bus system in Atlanta, which I had never done before.  There was a stop across from my high school, and after home room, so that I would not be counted as absent, I walked out the front door, retrieved my suitcase/bag, and crossed the street to the bus stop and boarded the MARTA bus going downtown Atlanta where the Greyhound Bus Terminal was.  I somehow managed to get to the station and purchase my one-way, ’cause I sure wasn’t planning on coming back, ticket and got on the west-bound bus.  I was a little scared, but mostly I was excited to be going back to California.  What I did not understand about buses was they do not take the shortest route to wherever it is they are going.  The bus left around 10a, and we went through Alabama and Mississippi to get to Memphis, Tennessee.  I remember wanting to go and ask the driver if he knew where he was going, but I didn’t want to bring any unnecessary attention to myself.  We finally pulled into the station in Memphis around 6p.  I had a bad feeling that I wasn’t going to make it.  I thought if I could get through Memphis without getting caught, I’d probably make it all the way to San Jose.  No such luck.

As soon as I stepped off the bus the authorities were waiting for me.  They asked if my name was Tamerie Shriver.  I refused to answer and went into the ladies room.  I stayed in there until one of the (men) agents stuck his head and told me I couldn’t stay in there forever.  I shot back, ‘Why not?’  I eventually left the bathroom and they took me to the juvenile detention facility.  They had called my mother as soon as I got off the bus, so she was on her way to get me.  She flew in, and because it was late by that time, we stayed overnight in a Holiday Inn by the airport.  I was fingerprinted and photographed as a runaway, even though I was 16.  Turns out in Georgia and Tennessee you had to be 17 to not be considered a juvenile.  Details, details.

I cried and cried. I cried that entire night.  I cried for the entire flight back to Atlanta.  I was so sad.  Sad to not be going to California, sad to have to go back to my house full of brothers I hated, back to a school I couldn’t stand, back to the life I wanted desperately not to be in.  As it turned out, I never did get in trouble for running away, with my mother or with the authorities.  In order to not have a juvenile record, though, we had to attend family therapy for 12 weeks.   My actions finally got through to my mother, and she agreed to make changes at home so it was more bearable for me.  My brothers were basically forbidden to even talk to me, let alone anything else.  I was sad about my aborted trip for a long time.  And I never stopped wanting to move to California.

I did leave a note that my mother was supposed to get that night when she got home from work.  In it I used the words to Cat Steven’s song Father and Son (I substituted Mother and Daughter, I also did not include all the lyrics, just those that made sense for what I was telling her) to help me express what I had not been able to make her understand:

 

“Father
It’s not time to make a change,
Just relax, take it easy.
You’re still young, that’s your fault,
There’s so much you have to know.

Son
How can I try to explain, when I do he turns away again.
It’s always been the same, same old story.
From the moment I could talk I was ordered to listen.
Now there’s a way and I know that I have to go away.
I know I have to go.

Father
It’s not time to make a change,
Just sit down, take it slowly.
You’re still young, that’s your fault,
There’s so much you have to go through.
Son

All the times that I cried, keeping all the things I knew inside,

It’s hard, but it’s harder to ignore it.

If they were right, I’d agree, but it’s them you know not me.

Now there’s a way and I know that I have to go away.
I know I have to go.”

 

Let’s just say, it made sense to me at the time, and bottom-line, it did get my point across and everything seem to change after that.

 

 

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