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Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

A Thanksgiving to Remember

Photo by Nancy Bryans
A childhood misadventure before a Happy Thanksgiving.


The day before Thanksgiving, at age four, I decided to leave home. That morning, I packed snacks for my journey of raisins and cookies stealthily pilfered from kitchen cupboards. The exact reason for my escape is now somewhat foggy, but my adventure is as clear as that sunny afternoon.

After lunch, making sure no one observed me, I crept out of our house without slamming the door, crouched along bushes and shrubs surrounding our front yard, and hastened toward the woods. A seldom-used dirt road meandered through tall hardwood trees past a gurgling stream. During pleasant weather, I played in this road, stream, and woods with my family and friends. They talked about a path leading to a village about two miles away where Margaret, my cousin, lived. My idea was to walk to Margaret’s house to play. I knew her mother would not send me home, at least not immediately. She did not drive and arrangements would have to be made with my mother for me to be picked up, but my mother was away from home until dinnertime.

It was a relief to enter the whispering woods, feel their cool breath on my face, hear the soft rustle of autumn leaves underfoot, and observe burbling water racing downstream. While enjoying birds chirping and squirrels leaping on tree limbs, the dirt road began to narrow, ending abruptly at a fenced meadow. I had walked too far and somehow missed the path to the village. I decided to save some steps and cut through the trees to find the path. Twigs snapped underfoot, briers snagged my clothes, and tangled vines grabbed my arms as the sun’s arc drifted toward late afternoon.

When the path was not found, I tried retracing my steps to the road but my feet left no impressions on the forest floor to aid navigation. Gazing overhead, the umbrella of autumn leaves looked the same in all directions. I continued to wander, straining to hear the familiar sound of gurgling water. But the forest remained silent and my little legs ached. I sat perplexed on a stump, munching raisins and cookies. Then the wind freshened. In the distance, I heard a dog bark. Relieved, I hurried toward the barking dog. At a clearing, I spotted the dog tethered near a weathered log cabin. An old black man, as bent as his walking stick, opened the door, leaned forward and asked, “Are you lost?” I was speechless. He chuckled and said, “Follow this road until you reach a crossroad, turn right and you will see your house, or take a shortcut across the pasture.” I thanked him, wondered how he knew where I lived, and arrived home in time for dinner without any of my family knowing I was missing.

Years later, I learned the old black man was the youngest son of a slave owned by my great-grandfather. The man refused to move out of the slave cabin where he was born and into a new house his family built on land deeded by my great-grandfather to his freed slaves who assumed his surname. If not for the kind old man and his barking dog, I might have roamed for days, leaving my youthful remains lost in the woods. Instead, it was a Thanksgiving to remember.

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About the Contributor
Nancy Bryans
Nancy Bryans, Writer, Teen Scene Editor, Production Assistant
Nancy graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Business Administration. She enjoyed a marketing and sales career in commercial and residential real estate. She used her management, PR and sales skills to design and write construction newsletters, media advertising and promotional brochures. Nancy served as board chair of numerous academic, civic, patriotic and charitable organizations. She resides in Brunswick Forest.

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