Runaway Dreams

There is a small red house that sits above a mountain lake. My wife and I have called it home for the almost seven years. The mortgage is paid, there’s a new well and we’ve done a lot of renovations since we’ve been here. Every time we return from the 50 kilometer round trip to town we can see it through the trees from the road and it always makes me feel good.

There’s a comfort that comes from seeing your own eaves and shutters. I ran away from my adopted home the first time when I fourteen. I remember spending that night sleeping in the cab of a rusted old Chev pickup and waking hungry, cold and lonely, knowing I had to go back but wishing I didn’t.

I hit the road again at fifteen. I jumped on a Greyhound and headed south. I remember an old black man in the Cincinnati bus station singing me songs with a tambourine and how he brought me more of the world in three verses than I’d ever heard before.

            Up to then all I knew of the world was that it was a painful place. I ran away from home because I thought I would go crazy if I stayed. I was beaten and strapped relentlessly and my runaway dreams were about someplace warm, sunny and happy.   

            I ran away a lot. We lived inSt. Catharines, Ontario then and I’d run off to Toronto on weekends. It was the tail end of the 60s and the early 70s and there was still a lot of tripped out, flower power energy and I found my way to a lot of exciting and interesting people.

            But I was under aged and was always sent back. Every taste of the world made me crave more of it. It was like it stepped up and introduced itself to me and my home could never be the same again. I could make comparisons and my adopted home always came up short.

            My runaway dreams were all about the lack of darkness. I’d grown used to bleakness and melancholy by the time I was sixteen and as soon as I was legal aged I ran away for the last time.

            These days I have a home that’s filled with light. When I look back at those years in my adopted home I can see the contrast. So I’ve been working hard at finding cracks where light shone through back then. They’re hard to spot but they are there nonetheless.

            That’s what it takes to achieve freedom. I didn’t know that at sixteen but I know it now. You can’t carry anything when you run so you always arrive empty-handed and freedom is actually being tied to things. I’ve learned to see my adopted home for what it gave me and I don’t have to run away from it anymore – it makes this home even brighter.


About Richard Wagamese

I am a published author with 13 titles published by major Canadian publishers. I am a First Nations person from the Ojibway Nation in Northwestern, Ontario, Canada. As a professional writer since 1979 I have written for newspaper, radio television, magazines and book publishing. I love the culture of books and the people who populate it. 2012 recipient of the National Aboriginal Achievement Award for Media & Communications. View all posts by Richard Wagamese

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