Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Lost and Found

There is no worse feeling in the world than that which overtakes you when you lose track, even temporarily, of one of your children. I didn’t really understand my mother’s near hysterical reaction the year I was in kindergarten and I took my younger brother, Tom, to school with me one afternoon so that he could play on the swings in the yard. She didn’t notice him leaving the house with me and it never once occurred to me that I should mention my idea to her before setting out. It seemed like such a good idea…at least until we got home.

Once I had children of my own I had opportunity to discover first-hand what that reaction was all about. We always wanted our children to grow into strong, independent adults with a keen sense of adventure and a desire to see what might lie around the next corner. We just didn’t anticipate that the seeds of those very qualities would begin bearing fruit at such an early age. Daniel was not quite three years old when I left him playing in the sandbox in our yard while I brought his baby brother into the house to place him in his crib for a nap. We lived on a farm and the house was set quite a distance from the road so I thought him safe enough for the few minutes I would be gone. I was wrong. When I returned his trucks lay abandoned in the sand and there was no sign of him.

I searched everywhere I could think of, getting more frantic by the minute until the only place I hadn’t looked was out at the highway. I broke into a stumbling run, my pulse pounding loud in my ears and my voice cracking as I shouted his name. The ditch stretched empty in both directions and I didn’t know what to do. I was having a melt down every bit as hysterical as my own mother’s had been all those years ago. Just then a car pulled out of the driveway of the neighboring farm where my husband was working and cruised to a stop in front of me. The woman driving was a stranger to me but she could see what a state I was in and she rolled the window down to ask if I was looking for a little boy.

“He’s at the barn next door,” she explained. “He was looking for his Dad.”

Daniel had walked all the way to the next farm along the ATV trail that my husband, Bev, used to go to work. He’d ridden along it with his Dad a few times and he knew exactly where he was going. Bev had been trying to reach me on the phone. Those moments when I didn’t know what had become of my son were the most terrifying that I have ever endured. Once I could breath normally again, I offered up a silent apology to my mother for what she’d endured that long ago afternoon when Tom had gone missing. Bev was very sympathetic. He knew I was upset but he didn’t really know what I’d been feeling until a similar thing happened to him a few years later

Once again it was our first-born who disappeared. I was out for the evening and Bev was putting the younger two children to bed. Daniel, as the eldest, was allowed to play for a few extra minutes but when Bev came back downstairs he couldn’t find him. At first he wasn’t too alarmed. He searched the house but there was no sign of him so he thought he must have gone back out to the yard. By the time he’d searched the yard and both barns he was beginning to feel frantic. He burst back into the silent kitchen thinking he might have come in while he was looking elsewhere. He hurried from room to room calling out Daniel’s name but there was no response. He’d been searching for at least 20 minutes, the longest minutes he’d ever experienced. Where could he have gone? He was getting desperate and was beginning to wonder if he should call the police when a muffled giggle brought him up short. Two strides brought Bev to the kitchen table which was pushed back against the wall to save space when it was not in use. He flipped up the tablecloth and bent to peer into the face of one little boy curled up on the seat of the chair on the opposite side of the table.

“What are you doing?” he demanded, his voice trembling with a mixture of frustration and relief. “Why didn’t you answer me when I called?”

Daniel crawled out, his tentative smile filled with childish innocence. “I was playing hide and seek,” he explained.

He’d managed to stay hidden the entire time that Bev searched and who knows how long it would have taken to find him if he hadn’t given himself away in the end. To be fair, no one had ever told him that you can’t play hide and seek unless everyone actually knows you are playing. No doubt he didn’t really understand what all the fuss was about. At least no harm was done. Daniel grew up into the strong and independent adult we hoped he would become and we….we managed to survive the journey.


  1. . . . survived with a few more grey hairs! . . .

  2. Well done. Sometimes it seems a miracle that any of us - whether parent or designate - survive, but there is joy on the journey.