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CHILDHOOD FREEDOM



I will never forget walking along the city streets of Jacksonville, Florida when I was a little boy. Many times I just poked along with nothing to do and no where important to go. In the back of my mind was the thought that the police would soon be looking for me.

"Why do they keep taking me back to the orphanage when I just keep on running away" I thought to myself.

But for right now all was well. The orphanage was far behind me and was the least of my worries. The world to me was so big and so wonderful at eleven years of age. So many things to see and so many unusual people to look at. Cars, and busses coming and going in every direction. The sky seemed to be so much bigger and the trees appeared to be so much greener in the free world. Though it seemed strange I loved the smell of the St. John's River. Every time that I passed over the Main Street Bridge I would stop, in the center of the bridge, and I would think about the time that I almost jumped.

"Boy! that's a long, long way down." I would say to myself.

As darkness fell I would make my rounds to the local restaurants. Out back were the dumpsters and the trash cans. How excited I would become to find a head of lettuce, or a half eaten taco. "Life is good to me." I would think as I hugged the lettuce close to my chest.

After eating I would head out for one of several local gas stations. Out back I would find the coca cola bottles all stacked neatly in their wooden cartons. I would load up my arms with bottles and I would take them around the building and cash them in for two cents each. Then I would head to the local theater for the night. No matter what was playing I would watch the movie, over, and over, and over.

It was always the same when I went to the theater. There were men there who always wanted to sit next to me. Men who wanted to buy me pop corn and put their arm across my shoulder. So I had to be real, real careful. When I was full of pop corn I would tell them that I had to go to the bathroom. In the darkness I would move to another spot in the theater. No matter how many times I would move there was always another man to take his place. I guess I was lucky that no one every hurt me or made me doing anything real bad.

The next morning I would leave the theater and head for the local park at Five Points. There I would hide in the large bushes, for hours trying to staying clear of the police and the orphanage matron.

That was the routine that I followed each and every time that I would run away from the orphanage. As I look back I still do not remember the dangers of the world. All I remember is the freedom. The freedom to eat whatever I could find in the garbage can. Oh! how wonderful it was to have a variety. How wonderful it was to have the right to make a choice of my own.



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