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April 6, 2007

Lemon Trees

I've done some stupid things in my life. I'll admit it. I think if you ask my Dad though (and Caleb, he wasn't too happy about it either...) one instance stands out a little more than the others.

I'd only been in Australia for three or four days when Sunday came around. I was really looking forward to going to church, in part because I was alone. I craved a bit of kinship. I found the address on the Internet and printed off a nice little bus map for myself.

"I can do this!" I told myself, trying hard not to think about the fact that I was indeed in an entirely different country. Had only been for mere hours. Had no idea where anything was. This was going to be a piece of cake.

I got up at 6 am to get ready and get to the bus. I was going to get there EARLY even. It was going to be great. I pulled out the map I'd printed off in the university's computer lab and headed down the street, looking for the 237 bus stop. I continued walking. Walked some more. I'll walk just to that street there, I'd tell myself, that has to be it. After a good 20 minutes though, I finally pulled myself out of my thick denial and realized that if I wanted to get to church I was going to have to walk the entire way. It couldn't be that far right?

Did I mention I was wearing boots? Tall black ones. I distinctly remember wearing tall black boots.

So I assessed the situation, I mean, I had a map, right? I could get there. So what if the map cut off that road a little...the road the church was on....

It took me an hour and a half before I decided that yes, I was lost. Lost in Australia. I'd seen some lovely neighborhoods though, there was that. Most of the homes were built up, with the garage as their first level. Many of the garages were detached but hollowed out of the hill it was on, like a cave. I liked that. I had also seen my first lemon tree, my first orange tree. They were just growing there on someones front lawn just bursting with gorgeous fruit. Like that was totally normal. And I liked that too. I'd seen a woman selling roses on the sidewalk. She had a lovely amber broach pinned to her crocheted blouse.

I decided that I wanted a lemon tree in my front yard when I grew up. I'd make homemade lemonade and my girls, with their curls, would sell it on the sidewalk in front of our house.

But back to the stupid stuff, right?

So it's been an hour and a half and I've officially walked off my map. No more map. And I'd just walked three blocks to find myself in a cul-de-sac. As I turned around to head back, more than a little dejected, with a tiny bit of fear, I noticed a car slowing fact...I'd seen that car earlier. About a half an hour earlier. The car stopped and a mop of black hair popped out the window. "Hey Sheila!* You look lost, you need a ride?"

Now, I know the right answer here, I went to the Stranger Danger assembly in elementary. Never talk to strangers. Never take candy from strangers. Never get in cars with strangers. Strangely though, I found myself walking towards his car. I walked all the way across the street thinking this would be okay. I stopped just shy of his window and told him the street I was looking for, he said he knew where it was and would take me there. I closed my eyes, said a silent prayer, and walked to the other side and got in.

I got in the car of a stranger. This didn't exactly occur to me until I was IN the car. A little bit late, I know. I tend to leap first, regret later.

He started driving, and I took a minute to size him up. College student, no doubt with all the fast food wrappers littering the car floor. He was in his sweats. He was a little more than hung over. When we turned onto Blaxland road, the road I was looking for, I breathed a sigh of relief. He wasn't going to take me somewhere and chop me into bits! Score! I spotted the church and he pulled into the parking lot. Trying not to tempt fate, I immediately went for the door handle before the car even came to a stop. He leaned over though, his cheek jutting out for a kiss. I'd seen this custom acted out a lot since I'd been there, so I obliged him. Anything to get out of the door. Then I turned and had one foot out when he said "No". was the "bits" part then......

I snuck a peek. His eyes were squeezed shut, his lips puckered. He was waiting, ever so patiently, for a kiss. "Um, no, sorry" I said, trying to stifle a laugh, and got out of the car. "Oh come on," he begged, "a little Sunday smooch?" I again told him that no, I would not be kissing him, shut the door and began to walk off. "Hey!" he said, and I turned to see him leaning rather precariously out of the car window, "Maybe next time we'll meet under more romantic circumstances!" I nodded, a little too enthusiastically, and walked out of sight.

So there you have it. And let that be a lesson to you, never get in cars with strangers. They may try to charm you with their beer breath and old grey sweats.

*Sheila is not my name, you may have noticed. Sheila is a catch-all name for any and all females in Australia.


Em said...

Even though your Dad and Caleb may not like that you did it ... think of the memories!!

By the way, you can tell Caleb that I also love me some Big Red Soda!!

Jess said...

Kimmy I have done this SAME thing, only the person I rode with was an old man and luckily didn't ask for any sort of affection in return. I got a TON of heat about getting a ride with someone I didn't know, but sometimes you need a ride!! I'll never EVER tell my children this story, but it's ok to ride with a stranger ONCE, isn't it?