Here's the last photo I took of my son (and his sarsaparilla) before I lost him.
Yes I know what you're thinking. How does a mother of four children, along with three other full grown, perfectly responsible adults LOSE a 5 year old boy?
I don't know.
I have no idea.
He's fast and I'm not attentive. I don't know.
We all went in the museum together. I was reading about... well, I was reading something on the wall and then I turned around and he was gone. So I asked my mother if she'd seen him. I asked my husband. I asked the other kids. I went in the back and looked in the little theater. I looked in the museum again (mind you, it was an old town - the museum was only the size of our carport) but he wasn't there. I told the museum lady that her "employees only" door was open and could I look in there for my boy? She took a quick peek, then locked it. So, I went outside and looked up and down the boardwalk. No sign.
I went inside - asked my husband again, this time with a more demanding voice - HAVE YOU SEEN OUR SON??
No. And that look - he gave me that look.
I CAN'T FIND OUR SON.
And so it began... the not quite frantic desire to get outside to look in the closest shops before he got too far. To backtrack to the "fun" places we'd already walked through. Then, I began talking to shop owners, tourists, people eating ice cream... Have you seen a little boy?
I went back to the museum and demanded that the museum lady open the locked door in back so I could look around in there just in case. I'd be mortified if he'd got only a few feet away from me, and then found himself locked in a room. She didn't object. Much.
I couldn't find him in the museum. He really wasn't there. I went back outside. My Dad perched on a bench near the museum in case his grandson came back to where he started. My Mom went one way, my husband went another, and my daughter and I took a different path. We spread out all over, then converged back on the museum with no clues. This town was pretty small. It was quite old - there were all sorts of very unique places for a little boy to go. There were also all sorts of strange faces from all over the country because this town was a fun place to go with your family. My family was not having fun at this moment.
It seemed many people I talked to felt bad for us, but then went right back to doing what they were doing. But amongst the crowd were a few angels. The father of five kids - who hustled them all outside the old-time bowling alley to scour the dirty streets and look for the little boy with the green hat and the red, white and blue polo shirt. The group of boy scouts who heard what happened and immediately fanned out and started doing what came natural to them. The shopkeepers who took our sons' description and kept their eyes peeled, while asking their patrons to do the same. Then all the other various residents of the town who swore they'd never lost a kid in their town, and it wasn't about to happen this day. It helped. It helped a lot.
It still floored me how many people just did not CARE. How could you not care? I tried to put myself in their shoes, and I just couldn't find anywhere inside of me that would not care if someone else's child was missing while I was on MY vacation to a little touristy town.
When the "ranger" showed up, after a telephone call from an anxious shopkeeper, I almost lost it. I wasn't trying to keep my composure, but something inside me knew that if I lost my cool (whatever THAT is) that I'd be useless in trying to find my son. I'd also cause my other three kids to go into a panic and that might traumatize them for life. More than they already are. She decided to call in some support, but it would take awhile. We were off and gone in a tiny little mining town, after all.
I took a few roads by myself. I couldn't stand to talk to anyone. I felt sick as I realized I was also looking in places where an injured body might be laying.
Oh my goodness. An injured body. A body??? Then the prayers started. How could I have forgotten to pray? I asked God to please protect my little boy no matter where he was or who he was with. I asked it over and over because I couldn't think of anything else to say. Do not be anxious for anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving... oh the thanksgiving part was SO hard right about now... give your requests to God. I did, I did a lot. And the peace that passes all understanding... yes, I began to feel that peace. But my heart did not feel good. So I prayed and prayed. And walked, and prayed. I called out my son's name, but my throat was so dry that I could barely squeak it out.
Over THIRTY MINUTES after this whole event began... as my husband made a second trip all the way back to where our vehicle was parked, I could hear voices shouting from the other side of the little town. The man with the five kids spotted me and asked me if they'd found him. I said NO... I hadn't heard anything yet!
Then almost immediately, my phone rang. It was my husband. My phone had rung a couple times already, and I had called his at least that many times, and each time it was ... "No, Nothing" and then he'd say, "I just can't find him". And we'd say a hurried, "Ok, bye" No what if's, no freak out panics, just "bye". It made my heart scream every time, but we carried on. Separately. I'm glad too, because if I had been anywhere near him I wouldn't have been able to contain my emotions AT. ALL.
This time, when my phone rang... I heard nothing! I said... WELL??? He said, breathlessly, "I have him... he's here... he's ok, but he's pretty shaken up." Of course I could tell that our son wasn't the only one that was shaken up, so before my wobbly knees gave out I said, WHERE??? He said, "Right by our car... he walked all the way back to our car." I took off that direction.
I hollered to the guy with five kids that my son had been found. I didn't even realize it, but as soon as my brain changed gears, and although I was walking a hundred miles an hour to get to the parking lot, I could hear my son's name. I could hear strange people calling out his name! They were everywhere, it was in stereo. How could I have not heard that before? The guy with five kids evidently sent his own children (and wife) out in various directions, because he quickly sent the message to one, who sent it on to the next, and so on, that the little lost lamb had been found.
The hillside got strangely quiet as I pounded feet to get to my husband and my son. A lady passed me in the parking lot and said, I think they found your son! And I said, I HEARD! And she asked incredulously, HOW can you keep your composure!?? I replied back over my shoulder, I don't know, but I'm about to NOT be able to anymore!! And I was right. As soon as I saw my son, hung up in the grasp of his big daddy's arms, I began to feel the tears.
I met up with them, and got to squeeze my son longer than he usually allows. His face was streaked with dust and tears, and his cheeks were puffy from wiping them off. My husband looked about as tired as an old man and I swear I saw four more gray hairs.
All my son could tell me after my questions about WHERE he went and WHAT happened?
"I went over by the chickens to look for you Momma, and you weren't there."
Oh - how did he know that was the FIRST place I went to look? We just missed each other by seconds, and evidently more than once but it was ok, I got him back and all that stuff didn't matter anymore.
Here's a photo of him right after... because I forgot that I'd taken pictures before, and just in case it happened again I wanted a recent photo *sigh*
My little lost sheep found his way all back through the town, and off into the far end of a large parking lot. He huddled up near our vehicle to cry and wait... he's a dang smart kid, but after today, he's learned a few more things. As have we all.
Now - Day One of our "vacation" is complete. I'm a little TEENSY bit nervous about Day Two!