When I was 6, I got lost for several hours.
We were in Ocean City, N.J., where my grandmother, known to the grandkids as Grandmother B, had a house a couple blocks off the beach. One day, I decided to walk home from the beach for lunch. By myself. Because I was 6. But I turned a block before our street.
I passed where the house was supposed to be and I kept on walking. I don’t know why I kept going forward. I was 6.
I was sandy, barefoot and wore only a swimming suit. I walked block to block for at least three miles (when I was an adult, I clocked what I believed was my route). Eventually, I started crying. A woman coming out of a Jersey bodega stopped me and asked what was wrong. “I’m lost,” I said.
She took me inside and called the police. The problem was that I didn’t know where I lived or the name of my grandmother. I kept telling them her name was “Grandmother B.” I was 6.
As it turned out, of course, my parents had called the police first, and the police took me home. The whole drive home I was thinking I was going to be in such big trouble. I wasn’t, but before the day was over, you know that I had memorized my grandmother’s full name and the address of the house. I still know them.
Years later, my mother told me that no one noticed I was even gone for an hour or so. You have to understand, this was our extended family and there were likely half a dozen aunts and uncles on the beach and probably 15 or 20 of us cousins. What kind of idiot would just wander off.
I was 6. And I was ready for lunch.
I still have intense anxiety whenever I travel somewhere new. I don’t want to get lost. Even now, I still feel like I’m 6. And I pack a lunch.