And just like that, they were gone. Both of them. Gone.
Her shoes tossed on the side of the empty cul-de-sac, the only sign they had been there just moments before.
It was too quiet. Neighbors garages closed. “Delaney? Cooper?”
I tried again. Louder. Stomping down the beginnings of panic in my chest. “HEY COOP? MINI! TIME FOR DINNER!”
I shook my head to push the fear away. This isn’t how this happens (thought every mother who ever lost a child).
They never go anywhere without telling me.
They must be in the backyard.
Quick run through the house. Eyes scan, left to right. Nothing. Still too quiet.
The oven dings to remind me: dinner is ready. The rice continues to simmer. The vegetables need to be sauteed.
I need reinforcement.
I run upstairs to grab Jeff from his office. I burst in as he is on the phone, “Can you help me find the kids? They are supposed to be in the cul de sac right in front of the house and they aren’t there.” He nods. Continues to smile into the phone.
My panic isn’t registering. Or if it is, he thinks I’m over-reacting…not realizing I’ve already been outside. I’ve already looked.
And I can’t find them.
I resist the urge to trail him as he walks out the door, still chuckling in to the phone. If I can ACT like things are just fine, they will be. If it is possible to will away danger, I will do it. I pull out a pan and begin to saute mushrooms. I peek at the rice. Almost ready. Salmon needs one more minute. With a dinner waiting, surely they will be home soon. It doesn’t happen like this. This is not our moment. This will not be the moment when everything changes.
Busy hands, overactive imagination.
Two minutes. Four minutes. Seven minutes.
I text him: “Have you found them yet?”
Eight minutes. Nine minutes.
The door flies open, “D….. you really don’t have them?? I can’t find them!” The fear now has him too.
“I went up and down the far street. I called their names. They aren’t answering. And her shoes, her SHOES are just sitting there on the side of the road…”
And like that, we are out the door together. Dinner on the stove, in the oven, left.
Our only hope is that they have gone inside a neighbor’s home… so we start knocking. We hold our breaths until the door is answered.
Yes. One is inside. One is out back. I see the relief collapse onto Jeff’s shoulders. I stand in the center of our cul de sac. I was waiting. Ready to run to another house, to bang on another door. There is no need. But I can’t stand there and wait for them.
I will lose it.
I walk home. Past her empty shoes, sitting alone on the side of the street. Into my kitchen, back to my over sauteed-mushrooms.
I breathe. They are safe. I knew they would be. Right? Right?
But what happens when right is wrong? I don’t want that day to come.
In the past I have written (and vlogged) about my tendency to be paranoid about allowing the kids outside alone. And I have been mocked, and called names – all because I was nervous about allowing my children (before this year – when they were 5 and 7 and younger) outside, in an unfenced area, without adult supervision. I’ve been accused of stifling their independence. I’ve been told they will need therapy because of me.
My husband has always fallen on the more lenient side… comfortable with them out front without us.
This was the first year I gave in. And until today, I was moderately ok with it. They would go out – I would watch them through my window, working as they played. But tonight, I was also in the kitchen – without a full view of them playing. My checking was every few minutes. And one of those times, they were suddenly gone.
You know the rest of the story.
I have promised not to ground my small people until prom. The sweet things that they are, they were equally as upset at the notion of having caused us such alarm. They were ‘having too much fun’ and just forgot to tell us they were heading to the neighbors.
They won’t be doing that again. Since I won’t be letting them out of my sight, I don’t imagine that will be a problem.