Carefully forming the red bandanna into a pouch, I placed my cherished treasures into its folds. For companionship, a miniature doll with hot pink hair. For creativity, a small box of four crayons and spiral-bound notepad. For direction, a plastic compass from a Cracker Jack box. For sustenance, a Pillsbury Space Food Stick. For luck, a rabbit’s foot keychain.

Gathering the four corners of the bandana around my treasures, I tied the ends to a long stick the way I’d seen cartoon characters do it in the shows I’d watched on Saturday mornings. With my belongings secured to the stick, I placed it over my shoulder and looked both ways up and down North Seventh Street before crossing.

Taking one last glance back at our house, with its peeling gray paint and metal swing set that always had a beehive in one of its tubes, I turned right toward town, with no clear idea of where my travels would take me. I might camp in the woods, or find an abandoned canoe near a stream. I might build a cabin or a treehouse. All I knew for sure was that I wasn’t coming back. Ever.

I was about 6 years old, and I was running away from home. For real this time.

About three hours later, I was back at our kitchen table sporting a milk mustache, picking through the Salisbury steak, Rice-A-Roni and canned peas my mom had made for dinner.

Throughout my childhood, I made many plans to run away. My parents weren’t abusive or neglectful, although they did drop me off at the pool during summer for hours at a time with only a dollar for the snack bar.

To the contrary, I lived a normal childhood, complete with cutoff jean shorts, polyester halter tops, Hot Wheels tricycles, skinned knees, yellow school bus rides to East Pike Elementary School, Monopoly board games on rainy Saturdays and Tang orange drink.

I had no real reason to escape my home life, but running away seemed so romantic. To have the power to wipe the slate clean, to reinvent myself and to start off on a completely unknown journey was the ultimate adventure to me. I longed to transform myself from a pudgy neighborhood girl on a yellow Schwinn bike with playing cards flapping in the spokes, to a self-sufficient, courageous and resourceful explorer.

I wanted to shake the dust of North Seventh Street off my Converse Chucks and experience freedom. I wanted to see the world!

Well, I really just wanted to camp in the woods for a night and roast marshmallows on a fire, but big dreams must start somewhere.

I never made it more than a few blocks before getting distracted. I’d usually run into a friend and end up playing Barbies in her sandbox or notice an interesting puddle to inspect. When I’d hear my mom ring the bell from our front porch, I’d feel pangs of hunger like Pavlov’s dog. I’d resolve to run away another day and head home, hoping we were having something other than Salisbury steak, Rice-A-Roni and canned peas for dinner.

Fifty years later, I find myself a post-military-retirement Navy wife, finally planted in one place. After nine military moves over more than two decades of active duty life, I’m happy that we found our forever home in a quaint New England village by the sea. However, I’ve been here for six years now, and I’m starting to feel that familiar itch.

During my husband’s Navy career, I became quite accustomed to change. In fact, I was well-suited for it. It scratched my itch for periodic reinvention and adventure that I’d felt since childhood. Moving to different locations in the U.S. and overseas kept me from getting bogged down in set routines, mindsets and identities. PCS moves became my adult version of running away from home, and in that way, I found it strangely comforting.

Now, for the first time in my life, I must find comfort in staying put, in my home and in my own skin. It’s time to accept who and where I am — to appreciate the beauty around and inside me.

Read more at and in Lisa’s book, “The Meat and Potatoes of Life: My True Lit Com.” Email:

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