There was no path, just my high tops in the grass, a zipper hoodie on my back over my favorite Ninja Turtles shirt. Trees as far as the eye could see in every direction.
“I’m sure they were over here,” I said out loud. “They were…”
There was no answer except the wind in the trees, the chirping of birds. I had collected myself, my heart was no longer racing. Assured myself that all was well. I kept moving, the sun had past its zenith, I had no watch and had no clue how long it had been since I last saw my cousins. We’d been playing hide and seek, the campsite had even been in sight around that one tree at the bend, but then, where was that bend? One minute we were running and laughing, chasing one another, the next, I was alone. I started skipped, trying to be cheerful, it was a beautiful day. I sang to myself, as loud as I could to defy the deafening quiet.
“Would you like to swing on a star? Carry moonbeams home in a jar…”
I finally came to a stream. I hadn’t seen any streams the whole trip, but I figured I’d follow it for a bit, it was nice to hear the babbling of it on the rocks as opposed to just wind in the trees. I was running out of songs, I switched to reciting Psalms.
“The Lord’s my shepherd I’ll not want…”
I was tired, I sat down on a boulder next to the stream, and thought. I’m not lost, I’m not lost, I’m not lost, I repeated over and over. I was determined, I couldn’t be lost, I turned back up the stream and kept walking. I wasn’t going to stop until I found my family. I backtracked to where I found the stream and headed back into the canopy of the thick woods, the towering conifers above me swaying in the breeze. I don’t know how long I walked, I had started singing again, repeating the same songs. Finally, I saw the bend, I rounded it, and there they were, sitting at the campsite eating birthday cake.
“Jason! There you are, come over here, it is time for cake.”
I tried to walk but my legs turned to jelly, I crumpled to my knees, tears were streaming down my face, dripping onto the dirt below, I wiped my eyes with my sleeves until they were soaked, but it was no good, I couldn’t stop it try as I might. Everyone turned to look at me, staring open mouthed, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents. I just sat there in the dirt. I had finally admitted to myself that I had been lost, and I was the only one who’d ever know. Weird memory, it just came to me last night. I had forgotten it. Strange the kind of problems you can have as a kid and how they seem so big at the time, and how time can seem to pass so slowly, I’m pretty sure I was only gone less than an hour, but it had seemed like all day to me at the time.