By: Jacqueline Shandler
It was a sunny Sunday afternoon in the fall. I was ten years old and as the youngest child, looked forward to any possibility of staying home alone without my parents or siblings. This morning, my Mom asked if I wanted to go to church, and as I said for a few weeks in a row, “I’m too tired and my stomach hurts.” It was my excuse for everything. However, the excuse only worked to get me out of attending church some of the time. That morning, my plea was successful. My Dad was at the hardware store and my siblings had travel soccer games. My Mom said she would only be out for twenty minutes and that I can call my Grandma if I need anything. Like usual, she demanded that I couldn’t answer the front door unless it was my Grandma. Finally, I was home alone like I wanted.
I was in the basement playing with toys when I heard the doorbell ring. That was the last time my heart hasn’t dropped into my stomach when that noise has sounded. I ran upstairs and checked through the sliver of glass and saw sandals the same as my Grandmas. I could tell it was a heavier, older woman, similar to my Grandma and I swung the door open. The lady standing before me was one I had never seen before and I immediately became frightened looking up at her. She was holding a box of children’s books. She did not ask if my parents were home, instead, she immediately started talking about these colorful books she is selling that have stories from the bible featuring Jesus. I was not very attentive, more worried that I had done what my Mother said not to. I could not focus on what she was saying, I only felt beads of sweat forming on my forehead, not knowing how I would get her to leave. I debated slamming the door in her face, which would have been risky because one of her feet was planted inside the house. I couldn’t think fast enough to come up with a convincing excuse. When I told her I was not interested, she insisted I give her a small donation. I told her I don’t have any change on me, and she said she could really use the money. I became fearful of what might happen if I didn’t give her money so I ran upstairs to my piggy bank to give her a dollar. Yes, one dollar. While I was upstairs, I didn’t know if she would make her way into the house, realizing I was home alone. I was shaking and hoped that this donation would finally make her leave. Before she departed, she asked to use the bathroom. I was extremely close to saying no. However, I was not accustomed to saying no to adults, so I let her in. As she was in the bathroom, I stood outside of it keeping my eyes and ears ready for anything peculiar to happen. I contemplated running to get the house phone and calling the police or my parents. Wasn’t my family supposed to be home by now? As she walked out the bathroom, I tried to act calm and walk her out, saying thank you and being as polite as I could so I didn’t get in a sticky situation. I couldn’t believe the amount of times my parents reminded me not to talk to strangers, and I allowed this woman into my house.
As she walked out, she handed me a book. When I looked through it after she left, I enjoyed the biblical story and it increased my faith because it was easy to understand and comforting. The moment the woman was at the door, I thought she would never leave and that it was the scariest moment of my life. However, after I reflect on it years later, I realize it was more of a sign that I need to have religion in my life. Maybe it wasn’t a coincidence that the one time I am left home alone, a woman arrives at my door selling religious books I once regarded as unimportant.
Lastly, this story of mine reminds me of Oates’ story, “Where are you going, Where have you been?” Connie and I both learned a lesson that family and religion should not be ignored. I am lucky that my encounter was with an older woman and not Arnold Friend and that my story did not end on that sunny Sunday afternoon.