The Slowest Runaway

“Don’t tell Dad! Don’t tell Bethany! Stop telling everybody in this world!”

September 13, 2012 | | Autumn 2012 | Back Issues | Community | Departments | Headwaters Nest | In Every Issue

I knocked on my neighbour Allie’s door, ready for our somewhat regular walk. After the kids are tucked into bed, we can often sneak out for a quick hour around the pretty streets and trails of town. We catch up on work, relationships, health, and sometimes even talk about the kids.

The door opened. Allie looked a little frazzled. I went inside. A soccer coach had stopped by to drop off team jerseys and just “quickly show her how to use the online registration system,” which didn’t appear to be going quickly at all. At first I thought it was this unexpected drop-in that had Allie antsy and hopping from foot to foot, until she turned and yelled out, “Have you finished your thank-you letters to the nice people who helped you FIND YOUR WAY HOME, Samuel?!”

A soulful, wounded moan came from…underneath or inside a small cabinet in the dining room? I couldn’t quite tell. Samuel cried out something so sad and garbled that the cat at my feet twitched her ears and crouched down low. I put on my best sympathetic smile, petted the cat and tried not to look too alarmed.

“Samuel ran away tonight,” Allie told me.

“Oh, really?” I said.

“Everything’s good now,” she said.

“Don’t tell Dad! Don’t tell Bethany! Stop telling everybody in this world!” came the cry from under the furniture.

“Too late,” Allie said in his direction. “Now finish your letters.”

Somehow, Allie’s guest left, her husband arrived from work to tag off, the letters were finished, and Allie licked the envelopes shut. “We’re just going to make a few deliveries,” she told me. Out the door we went, determination on her face.

Turns out the five year old in question, told it was bath time, had quietly and firmly stated, “I do not want to have a bath. And if you run my bath, I will run away.” That was it. It was the first time he had ever said anything of the sort, and there was no fuss or tantrum to go with it. So Allie ignored him and went about running his bath.

When she came downstairs to get him, he was gone.

His sisters hadn’t seen him disappear, so Allie figured he was hiding in the house. Or the yard. Or the garage… But, no, he was not. Seeing activity in the schoolyard behind the house, she ran to ask the cadets, “Have you seen a little boy in an orange shirt, about this high?” “No,” they said in formation. She ran the entire perimeter of the school. Still no “Chachie,” as he is affectionately known.

Out front to the street she went, panic rising. A neighbourhood teenager said yes, he had seen a little boy about that high in an orange shirt and heading that way. Allie went on. A new mom rocked her baby and pointed down the street. Another mom in her driveway with her own little one, said yes, he had just passed that way. Next was the elderly man who regularly biked a slow loop through the neighbourhood. He too had just passed a little boy about yea high. Mr. Murray, the retired farmer who lost his wife a few years back, then his son soon after to cancer, waved from his porch in his knowing way.

From house after house, each person had been watching Samuel. “Shouldn’t you be home?” they asked. And his little head shook side to side, “No.” “Are you okay?” they asked. “Yes,” he pouted. They had kept an eye on him as he passed from one watchful eye to the next, until he reached Tony. Tony is the neighbour who is always in the driveway cleaning and working on his truck. He put down his tools and joined Samuel on his runaway walk.

Tony and Samuel were having a nice philosophical talk about baths when Allie rounded the bend at a sprint. “Come on back,” Tony was saying as they strolled slowly along. “I’m sure your mom won’t make you have a bath.” Samuel kept going on his slow march, until his mom caught up. I can only imagine the mix of relief, gratitude and adrenaline-fuelled anger she must have felt as Tony handed off little Chachie to her.

It took a village to return a child. For that, my friend is forever grateful to our neighbours. Illustration by Shelagh Armstrong.

As parents, we often nod in agreement with the phrase “It takes a village to raise a child,” without really connecting the African proverb to our everyday lives. In this case, it took a village to return a child. For that, my friend is forever grateful to our neighbours.

Finally that night, we headed out on our walk. Allie and I hand-delivered Samuel’s thank-you notes – his penitence scratched out on flowery cards surely not bought for this purpose – to the teenager, the moms, Mr. Murray, and the last one we dropped in Tony’s mailbox, his truck tucked in for the night and just the porch light still on.

We walked it out and eventually our nervous laughter turned to genuine belly laughs over the slowest, safest runaway ever.

Headwaters Arts Kids’ Fest

Throughout the summer the kids ran wild, creating, acting and making to their hearts’ content. Now, back at school desks, they might just need a little creative kick. The Headwaters Arts Festival offers just such an opportunity with its Kids’ Fest programs, art workshops that include book-making, collage, mask-making, clay play, photography, even making their own trading cards. Workshops are an hour and a half to two hours long and take place September 22, 23 and 30. See the full line-up at

Salamander Festival in Belfountain

Join Credit Valley Conservation and the Belfountain community for the annual Salamander Festival in the twisty-turny village near the Forks of the Credit. This family-friendly event includes an artisans’ and farmers’ market, live entertainment, access to the Belfountain Conservation Area, and a silent auction and bake sale. Enjoy a barbecue and other activities for the kids. It’s on September 29, 10am to 3pm.

Caledon CRUNCH!

Eat Local Caledon encourages you to grab a carrot and chomp down at precisely 11am on October 5. For the past four years, Caledon school kids, town staff and other citizens have all crunched on a nice juicy apple at the same time to celebrate the local harvest and be reminded of the benefits of choosing local food. This year, because the weather has limited the apple harvest, some 10,000 people will crunch carrots instead. It will all be broadcast live on Bolton 105.5 FM. To join in, see

Access for All

Parents seeking accessible programs for disabled kids and teens can find it hard to source services. And that can be even more difficult in decentralized rural areas. The Town of Caledon is hosting an Accessibility Information Forum on October 23 at 7pm at the Caledon Community Complex, 6215 Old Church Road in Caledon East. The forum’s goal is to assist community organizations in getting the word out about their programs, allow for government agencies to present their services, and engage community dialogue about support needed in Caledon. Find out what is available to you, and connect with families and service providers “in the know.” All are welcome, including children.

Big Step for Orangeville

Finally, we at Kids in the Hills applaud the Town of Orangeville for its recent big step towards creating smoke-free spaces and a smoke-free environment on and around town property. We love that the town is choosing to promote a healthier lifestyle, and this move may also help discourage youth from starting to smoke. The new outdoor smoking bylaw prohibits smoking in parks, on trails, in municipal parking lots and outside town-owned and operated buildings (such as recreation centres, libraries, the train station and fire hall, etc.). Well done, Orangeville!

About the Author More by Bethany Lee

Bethany Lee is a freelance writer who lives in Mono.

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