That time I got lost

Monday, November 18, 2013 Permalink

I’m linking up again today with Kerri and her Monday #MyFirst. Today we’re writing about our first… moment of terror. 

I’m not quite sure terror’s the right descriptor for this little tale (given decades later I huddled in my bed when bombs went off near my place in Phnom Penh), but it’s the first time I can remember being scared. I mean, I’m fairly sure coming out of the birth canal and receiving the oft-mentioned bottom-slap was quite shocking… but fortunately that experience is beyond the realms of my generally-pathetic memory.

My story takes place a few years later, when I was 3 or 4… when I was found by the police.

Shocking I know. I bet you’re envisioning kidnapping and other nefarious deeds, but no… this tale is a tad more embarrassing than that.

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Like any younger sibling, I spent much of my early years following my older brother around. PJ is 3yrs and 10mths older than me and although I’m sure he was overjoyed by my company (?!) he did *ahem* sometimes do his damnedest to rid himself of me.

Our street was a peaceful cul-de-sac and back then we knew almost everyone in the street. Indeed, about 1/3 of the street (which was – and still is – about 16 houses long) comprised families with kids vaguely our age.

On this particular day PJ and our neighbour (the slightly older Cathy) were riding their bikes around and (possibly)  trying to ditch yours truly who wouldn’t leave them alone. Undoubtedly PJ was under instructions from my mother to keep his eye on me, but – although my company was much-desired even then – my 7 year old brother was probably less enthralled at the notion of ‘playing with his sister’.

What I can remember is that he and Cathy went riding off down the street (the non cul-de-sac end) with me frantically chasing them on foot.

Next thing I know they’ve disappeared (obviously looping around the block) leaving me at the end of the street. Alone. Lost.

I started crying and the rest is a bit vague. But, I do remember a policeman coming up to me and asking where I lived.

“I don’t know,” I bawled – standing there on the corner, just 7 houses down from my own  house.

I gather the officer was bundling me in his car when my brother and Cathy came cycling up. PJ was beside himself. I can’t really remember what happened next – other than PJ claiming me as his sister. He was convincing enough that the police officer let me go with him, and I remember the incredible fear disappearing into thin air. All was well again. PJ had come for me.

The next thing I remember is lying on my parents bed regaling them with the story (I was a story-teller even back then!). In retrospect (ie. decades later) I’m fairly sure they were horrified and my brother in huge trouble.

Dec 1970

My brother’s memories of our childhood are mostly crystal clear. Mine are murky. So to confirm my recollection I called my mother before writing this.

Forty years later I’m struck by a range of questions.

“Did someone call the police?” I asked. Our street was in the suburbs of a small town – the likelihood of a police car happening upon me is virtually zero.

“Was it definitely the police?” I asked. Hell, I was 3. It could have been some pedophile telling me he was a police officer for all I know. My mother said my brother agreed it was a police officer and a police car, so….

But, it’s strange nonetheless. We cannot remember the length of time for which I was lost. It could have been just minutes while my brother rode around the block, or perhaps he continued to play before realising I was missing.

I was obviously terrified at the time, but my strongest memories of that day though are: my brother frantically cycling along the street to find me; and lying on my parents’ bed, as dad changed out of his work clothes, telling them about my exciting exploits.

Did you ever get lost or lose your kids? Was ‘being found’ the thing you / they remember the most?


  • Kerri Sackville
    November 18, 2013

    I feel sorry for you. I do. But the kid is not the most scared. It’s the PARENTS who are the most terrified. I know! I’ve lost kids twice!!!! HORRIBLE!!!!
    (But glad you were found. Truly!)

    • Debbish
      November 18, 2013

      When I spoke to mum (while writing this) she said she doesn’t think they knew I was missing. My street was pretty safe and I’m fairly sure we spent most days roaming around. My best friend lived next door and we had other friends in the street. I probably was SUPPOSED to ask permission before leaving the yard, but….

  • Char
    November 18, 2013

    I got lost at about the same age and was found by police. My family was out shopping at Macdonald and East’s in the city and I somehow got separated from them. That fear is one of my earliest memories.

    • Debbish
      November 18, 2013

      Oh… shopping centres. Very scary. And whatever happened to Macdonald and East? I assume they must have gone bust?

  • Lee-Anne
    November 18, 2013

    Being lost as a child is terrifying and even more so as a parent. I lost my 4 year old daughter in David Jones when I was distracted looking at some dresses. She’d wandered off and seemingly vanished, and she didn’t surface for twenty minutes, after repeated calls over the PA. Utterly nerve-wracking…the guilt was awful!
    BTW, love your old photos! 🙂

    My own #My First Moment of Terror involved water…

    • Debbish
      November 18, 2013

      Hi Lee-Anne, Char had a lost-in-shopping centre story as well. I guess they’re busy and crowded places! Looking forward to reading your story!

  • Jess
    November 18, 2013

    I got lost once with my Dad, he was not good at supervision and told me to follow him home from the beach. He had really hairy legs and I tried to follow the hairy legs, but unfortunately it was crowded and I started following the wrong legs. Don’t remember how it resolved except my mum was SO mad at Dad.
    You were a cute kid!!!

    • Debbish
      November 18, 2013

      Thanks Jess. And… too many sets of hairy legs – very funny! (Your poor dad!)

  • Sarah-Joy @ Love Bites
    November 18, 2013

    I remember getting lost in an airport when I was 10…scary stuff! That is not a nice feeling, being so so alone in the world. x

    • Debbish
      November 19, 2013

      No… most definitely not Sarah-Joy!

  • Satu
    November 19, 2013

    Ha! I can’t remember when I was first terrified, even though I must’ve been. My older sister is only 1 year older than I am, but we usually remember different things from our childhoods.

    I think I did get lost a time or two, and I also remember that at age 5 I persuaded my sister to come with me to buy cigarettes which we then smoked on our balcony(!?) I have absolutely no idea why I wanted to do that. I must’ve been n early rebel or something! 😛

    I love your pigtails and your brother’s knee socks!

    • Debbish
      November 19, 2013

      Satu, I’m pretty sure my brother’s outfit was purple – so it’s even worse!!!

      But – more importantly – cigarettes at 5 years old?! What a mischievous thing to do!

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