Worst Nightmare

written by liz on Tuesday, November 25 2008

Today was sheer and utter hell. Not, I got my eye brows waxed and had PMS- not, I burned dinner and then spilled it all over the white carpet. No, this was a pure and simple, unmistakable nightmare.

Today I lost my child.

Sam and I drove over to over to pick up Alex from first grade. I was running late, so I skipped walking, and hopped in the car. The parking lot was full, so I drove around to the back of the school where I can park on the street and take a little hidden alley to the giant blacktop and continue on to Alex's classroom. We waited for Alex and got him after his class let out.  I told him he would have to get his bicycle so we could put it into the car. He protested. Can I follow the signs to the book sale mom? No Alex I said, stay where I can see you. I made the mistake of trying to have a conversation with a friend while Alex ignored my repeated requests and rode off on his bike. Sam was running around too. Usually they take off for a few moments, but come back, like Alex did. Then, as I watched Sam with one eye, I  watched him disappear behind a building and mistakenly thought he would be right back. Thought he would be right back. Horrendous words when referring to ones child. Only if you are wrong, and I was wrong.

At first, I calmly searched the school grounds. As more time went by, I became increasingly more distressed. I started asking people I know- Have you seen Sam? Pretty soon, there were about 5 of us checking around. I checked the library, the after care area, Alex's classroom. At this point 10 minutes has passed or was it 5 or was it 25 I honestly have no idea- anyway, I am getting more anxious. I walked into the office to see if he was there. I start worrying. And then trembling. The words Oh my god, Oh my god starts coursing through my brain a few times they slip off my lips. The usual secretary is out of the office and the "stand in" does not know how to make an announcement over the loudspeaker. After a moment, the principals office door opens. I walk in. He knows Sam. Hoping he will help me, I blurt out: I can't find Sam. He looks at me. Time stops. Two second pause. What is he wearing? he asks. I answer: a red shirt. He picks up the phone and starts making an announcement over the loudspeaker.  He says there is a lost child. A sibling of one of the students. In a red shirt. Get this: he says, "Get your kids settled and leave your classroom to help find this child."

I think my brain may combust. I run out of the office and there are teachers looking around for Sam like a lost dog. The principal tells me to go check the car. "Run" he says. I run. I run and run and run. There is another parent parallel to me yelling Sam's name and looking under things. Surreal does not begin to describe this scene. I round the corner, panting. Running up a small hill to the street where my car is parked. All the tension in my body leaves it for one short second. I see a small shape moving about in the car. Sam! You are here! I must have been shrieking because an older couple came running out of their house. I am trying to tell Sam I was so worried. I am trying not to yell but am crying, but also trying to stay calm. The man of the couple says, Are you OK Ma am? I stare at him, eyes full of tears. How old is he Ma'am? I try to explain but can't . My vision blurs. The other parent who was near me, came over. You need a hug she says, and wraps her arms around me. I am crying, my head is vibrating. I have the couple, Sam in the car, and this woman hugging me. I must be having a nightmare. It is frantic and insane.

So, ladies and gentleman, that is the story of how I lost and then found my child. How I came to the realization that losing a child must be worse than being dipped in hot oil and fried alive. Sam wandered away from me, walked off school grounds, and got into our car to play with the lights, the wiper switch, the turn signal and who knows what else. When our eyes met and I hysterically tried to put words to the story for him, he sheepishly looked as if he might laugh. "Mommy was so scared Sam" I say. "Mommy didn't know where you were." This went on and on until the couple vanished. The lady who hugged me walked off. I wept.

I still have Alex at the school grounds so we have to walk back on the campus. People look over and wave. Then I realize there is a police officer there. He walks over and asks if we are OK. Not really I say honestly. Then he asks my name and I joke: "Loser?" Then he asks Sam's name and then our phone number, etc. He wants to talk to Sam who is playing coy. I finally make Sam come speak to the officer. The officer tells Sam he is never to leave the school without a parent or a teacher. He says this and then I make Sam look in my eyes and promise to never do that again. I repeat it for emphasis and tell him to say "Yes Mommy". He does.

I swear I am about to take a shot of vodka right now. I would but I am so exhausted I might shrivel up. Drained underestimates it. I have red eyes that feel like they were peeled with a potato peeler. I opt for a bowl of cereal and wish I could curl into a position and die. Parents of missing children: I don't know how you go on.

As a friend said: Thanksgiving takes on a new meaning this year.

 

I

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