It was 1971 and I was 5 1/2 years old. Old enough to remember a traumatic experience that, to this day, causes me to “hold it until I get home,” rather than visiting the restroom when traveling with a group.
It was early evening on a rainy fall day.
My parents, sister and I were visiting the massive, old house of family friends who were in the process of a huge remodeling project. To me, it was like a haunted house – giant, dark, and unfurnished. But it was also a veritable playground for we eight or so kids to run wild in while playing hide-and-seek.
The six or eight adults (I can remember six of them for sure but there may have been two more) toured the house, had a cocktail or two, and visited. At some point, they decided to take the party back to our house, about 20 minutes away, where there would be additional cocktails and a fridge full of food.
Everyone started towards the front door and piled into the three or four cars out front.
As adults and kids piled into the cars, I chose a most inopportune time to visit the restroom – a half-bath by the front door. When I came out of the bathroom I noticed a silence, walked outside to get in a car and shut the front door behind me…which promptly locked. Not one car remained in the driveway.
I stood in the covered portico staring out in front of me. An undoubtedly haunted house behind me, pouring rain in front, and no one to be seen. What on earth was I going to do? I’d not have been able to walk home – a 20 minute drive – nor find my way at 5 1/2. I felt a sense of panic set in. What was I to do now?
The party arrived back at my house and within minutes the adults realized that I was missing.
Two adults jumped back in the car – my Dad and one other guest – and immediately drove back to the first house. After standing in that portico for what seemed the longest 40-60 minutes of my short life thus far, I’d never been as happy to see my father as I was then!
While traveling with a group of five women last year, I exited the restroom to find the beach house empty. Immediately a sense of panic took over as I walked out the front door. I was, once again, that 5 1/2 year old standing alone and wondering where everyone was. Turns out that the women had taken the golf cart to tour the complex, but they felt my wrath upon their return. True, I may have been taking out almost 50 years of anguish on them unfairly, but the original, trauma will never leave me, I guess.
Lesson learned from this scary experience? Always do a head count when traveling in caravans, and never visit the restroom as groups are about to leave. To this day I try to choose holding it over being left behind.