@loripalminteriTweets by @loripalminteri
Kidnapping & Beds
I know that title sounds dirty, if not disturbing. This won’t be (well… maybe a little? I don’t know I can’t tell what people find disturbing anymore). However, if something is especially dark (or especially sexual), I usually caution my family not to read, which, of course, they don’t listen and then tell me I shared too much information. I’m about to go into a side tangent here. My parents won’t pry into our lives but they always ask questions. My brother and I, often guilty of semi-crazy, if not full blown crazy actions, will say, “are you sure you want to know? Because I will tell you.” Don’t ask questions you don’t want answers to. And so, our relationship with our parents is a lot more honest than yours, probably. Even among my many (19 first) cousins, there’s so much my Aunts and Uncles don’t know about them because they either don’t want to deal with their judgement and backlash or they’re trying to protect them. This is sometimes a point of contention in my family, because my brother and I are non-conventional people. It’s possible I’m even more stubbornly rebellious than my brother, but his headstrong temper gets him in trouble at times. Some of our Uncle’s will attribute this behavior to my parents not being strict enough. I’m not knocking my family here. If you’re a regular reader of my blogs, you already know how much I treasure my family, fucked up flaws and all, the funniest motherfuckers I know. But when my Uncle’s imply that my brother would have more direction if he was disciplined harder, I resent this. Look, my brother has is faults, no question. However, we have a far more honest relationship with our parents than any of our cousins (also, my cousins consider my parents the most laid back and fun)… and most of my friends. It must be hard for my parents, I image, when we confess our fuck ups and failures, benders or trivial trip ups. But I wouldn’t trade this. They don’t know every detail of my life, but if I’m chewing glass, they’re going to know why my mouth is full of blood (on more than one occasion, people have said, “what would your parents think about this” (including someone who tried to blackmail me) and I was like, “I know exactly what they think because I told them.” Like when I go hiking by myself, or travel alone, I usually wait till the moment passes (to protect them) so they don’t have to worry. Once I’ve moved on or over come a hardship, I’m more likely to let them know after the fact. Being transparent leads to drama. Which can suck. There’s growth from it. There’s a bond to it.
I digress. Let’s get back to it, shall we? In Gary Gulman’s brilliant new special “The Great Depresh” (on HBO), that is not only hilarious but a poignant look on mental illness, he accurately debunks kidnapping statistics. While kidnapping statics are sky high, they’re mostly bull shit. Most “kidnappings” are actually custody battles among families getting divorced. So the kids were getting emotionally scarred from their parents inability to settle their shitty marriage like adults, but they weren’t actually lured into a van by a stranger with candy and puppies. Actually 99% of “kidnapping” are either from divorce cases or a kid merely running away. Plus, it’s extremely hard to kidnap kids nowadays with all the cameras around!!!!!!
I also have bits about my parent’s overly paranoid fear of being kidnapped. However, they might have been onto something.
Three times in my middle school years, strangers tried to pick me up. Alas, I was always a runt for my age, so when I was 12, I looked about 8. And I was a really cute blond kid. One time, which I don’t believe was predatory, my best friend Lauren and I were walking home from school. We were both considered “walkers” because we lived close enough to the school where buses wouldn’t get us. I was fortunate, however, because my mom worked in the school, so I usually had a ride to and from, unless she had to stay later or I had a club I attended or something.
Anyhow. It started to snow when Lauren and I were walking home. And then the wind started to gust. It was one of those snowfalls that looked like it was happening sideways instead of from the sky. A young man in a pick up truck stopped and asked us if we needed a ride. He wasn’t much older than us. Probably a junior or senior in high school. And I remember thinking at the time that he was handsome. I’m going to give this guy the benefit of the doubt that he wasn’t a creep, just a good Samaritan. But Lauren and I looked at each other and declined the offer anyway. He didn’t press. He just drove away and we freezed our asses off.
The other two times were way creepier. One was a woman, the other was a man. Again, I was walking home from school. We grew up in a really safe neighborhood despite what this might make you believe. I was on my street when this woman pulled up in a red car. She rolled down the window and asked if I needed a ride. Naturally, I said no. She continued next to me as I continued walking, insisting that I get in the car. Is it possible she thought I was way younger than I actually was and wanted to help? Sure. But my instincts were in flight mode. I remember her face to this day. I remember thinking, there is something not right about this woman. Even back then I was well aware that most people weren’t good or evil, but misunderstood in this grey area. But some people are just evil. They just are. Some serial killers have confessed to this (including Ed Kemper, brilliantly portrayed in “Mindhunter” on Netflix if you haven’t watched, and H.H. Holmes, possibly the worst serial killer of all time said he was born with the devil in him, he had no conscious killing people). Her face… whether or not she was malicious, I couldn’t say… but it was crazy. It was unnerving. I was really scared.
She insisted I get in the car (today, I would have snapped a picture of that license plate, but this is before cell phones, my generation is that last to know life without smart phones). Young Lori pointed to the house I was approaching, “no thanks, I live right there.” A stone cold lie. As I was walking up to this stranger’s house, I’m thinking, “oh god, what if she doesn’t keep driving? Then I’m just standing on this stoop of someone I don’t know. Do I try to go in? Do I ring the doorbell? What do I say if someone comes to the door? I don’t know that lady and she’s trying to get me in her car, can I come in? What if these people were bigger creeps than she was? Or what if no one answers and I’m just standing there like an idiot?”
The lady did drive away. I had opened the screen door of the house and stood behind it as I watched her drive on, my little heart racing that she wouldn’t circle back and see me continue to walk home, or if these people would open their door and be like, “what the fuck are you doing?” Neither of those things happened and I made it home safely.
The other time a stranger tried to get me in their car was a dude. He pulled up and rested his foot upon the break to match my walking speed and asked me if I wanted a ride home. Of course, I said no. He continued to ask me where I lived and if it were a long walk. Again, I had this sinking feeling. This man was going to take me. He’s going to take me and I’m never going to see my family again. I used the same strategy as the story above. “I live right here,” I said, pointing to a strangers house. This time, I went to the gate to the backyard. I figured this was a much better plan, in case he lingered. Also, my brother and I were big on manhunt with the neighborhood kids and we were quite good at hopping fences. We spent a lot of time hopping fences and sneaking through people’s backyards. We got in trouble a few times, but most of the time we were stealthy and got away with it. We never broke into anywhere or stole anything, we just got some joy out of hopping fences for some reason. My mindset was that I could easily hop fences down the block and get away from this guy (to this day, I have nightmares of getting chased and escaping by hopping fences, and actually, I once ran from the cops as a drunk teenager by hopping fences).
Watching out of the corner of my eye, I unlocked the gate and went into this person’s backyard, hoping there wasn’t a dog that would bite me. From the cracks of the wood, I watched the man drive off. I’m not sure what number I counted to, but I remember counting and my heart racing, before I continued home.
Those are disarming stories, I suppose, with no tragic ending since I’m still here! But this next anecdote is quite funny.
I want to say I was a freshman in high school, but I may have been a year younger or older. It’s hard to remember the exact timeline now. Quite often, I was excessively sleepy. The start of budding sleep disorders. Though, I think allergies were a big culprit in this. I had horrible allergies. Which sucked. My biggest allergen is mold, and I am telling you I’m sure at least half of my classrooms had mold in the vents, triggering my allergies. If I didn’t take medicine, my face would be filled with pressure and I couldn’t focus and I’d be so tired. But the medicine also made me really tired. It was a hopeless situation. In high school, I’d become notorious for nodding off in class.
This came to a surprise to one of my good friends today, but I was almost always in the school plays. I couldn’t sing for shit, so I didn’t land the coveted roles in musicals, but I was almost always a cameo character for comic relief. Despite being shy, I was silly and funny. Often, I changed my lines, or added jokes that were more than not well received (as a senior, my friend Kelly and I directed a one act play in which we basically re-wrote the whole script adding jokes). The theater kids were nerds. I belonged there.
One day, I skipped theater rehearsal. This was unlike me. I took all my responsibilities very seriously. But I was crazy tired. I opted out of going that day. I walked home (no one tried to give me a ride home), went to my room and passed the fuck out. Now, my brother and I had a reputation for being unwakeable when we were in a deep sleep. My bed was against the wall where the door was. It’s still a bit of a mystery to me how my parents didn’t see me there, but it is possible they looked in my room and didn’t notice I was in my bed, pressed against the wall with blankets and stuffed animals covering me.
So… My parents had no idea I was in the house. They thought I was at play rehearsal, so they didn’t fret at first. Then dinner time came (we always had dinner at 5pm, early) and they got a little suspicious because if theater rehearsal ran late, I always called them to let them know (again, I was an insanely responsible kid). Another hour goes by and they start making phone calls to my closest friends. Maybe she went there for dinner? Maybe she forgot to call? Maybe she told us this morning and we forgot?
Then they got answers that horrified them. One phone call after the other, from kids in the play and kids I was friends with said I left right after school. Cue panic in my parents. Now they’re calling the school. My Aunts and Uncles. Was she taken? Ran away? Not our Lori. Where is she?
They couldn’t call the cops because I wasn’t missing long enough for it to be considered a problem. She’s probably at a friends’ house, they’d say Not our daughter, Lori, you don’t know her. That’s what every parent says.
Eventually, I stir awake hearing commotion downstairs. My mom is crying and my dad is trying to comfort her. Groggy and rubbing my eyes, I come down the stairs, “what’s going on?” The look on their face was priceless. I remember to this day. They were surprised, relieved, happy, sad, confused, angry—so many emotions written on their face.
“Where did you come from?”
“Um… my bed. I was sleeping.”
This was followed by emotional embrace that confused the fuck out of me. What the hell is going on.
Then they told me they basically called everyone in the neighborhood, the school, family– about my ‘mysterious’ disappearance.
“Wait… so you never checked my bedroom????” What the fuck is wrong with you guys.
They insisted they did, but they didn’t see my little body laying there. Then they were mad at me for not waking up in the commotion. Wait, how is this my fault again?????!!!!
My folks were, of course, relieved that I was safe in the house, but also embarrassed. I spent the next half hour making at least a dozen phone calls telling people I wasn’t missing, I was in the house all along! What a twist! I felt horrible, but also, the shaking voices of people who were crying in my fake absence made me realize how much I meant to these people.
That’s the story about how my parents completely did not lose their daughter but thought they did for about an hour. Which was probably a horrible hour for them, seemingly lasting a lifetime. We laugh about this today, as it’s truly ridiculous. This also became a running joke with my friends.
Writers sometimes like to wrap up their stories with a message. I’m not sure if there’s one here? Teach your kid to hide in a backyard if a stranger tries to give them a ride. And if you think your kid is missing, check their bed first and foremost to keep your family and friends from hysterics.