20, 40, 60 and GONE

The single most terrifying moment was about to be upon me.

My dad came over and whisked Lily and I away for a little bit of birthday shopping. Since Lily and I both have birthdays in December, it is easy to get them mixed up with Christmas. He makes sure there is a notable difference and it is becoming a wonderful little family tradition.

After braving the mall two weeks before Christmas, I discovered a little gem of a coat I had wanted for a long time. It was half off! Oh happy birthday to me! We had rented one of those little car strollers from the mall for Lily to enjoy but after a while she was getting bored. So I took her out and sat her in front of a mirror where she could chat with the cutest little girl I have ever known!

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My dad pulled out his wallet and began handing me money. I held out my hand, smiled at Lily and then looked at my dad ……for the count of three. He counted out 20’s and laid them in my open palm- 20, 40, 60… I looked back at Lily and she was GONE.

And I mean GONE. She had vanished. Suddenly the air was sucked out of me, my vision changed to a surreal view of the department store, my hackles raised as I scanned each and every living thing around me. SHE. WAS. GONE.

I hit the floor looking under all the clothing racks and my dad immediately ran the other direction looking for anyone carrying her off…

Frantic cannot begin to explain how I felt. I am actually in tears writing this experience right now (and it ended well). A surge of fury and fear raced through my body, changing me a little- my entire being was tingling. I noticed everything and nothing all at once. I felt like a giant and yet so powerless. As I was about to unleash a primal scream alerting everyone in the store as to my unbridled terror, when an old man touched my arm.

I will never forget the look in his eyes as he said, “He found her.” “Mama, he found her.” His eyes sparkled and I could feel his soul rejoice with the news he was chosen to deliver to me. 

Suddenly everything grew still in my mind and the world played a fuzzy background image to the sight of my dad with Lily on his shoulders.

As you would expect after having such intense emotions rack your body, mind, soul- I needed some release. I felt like I was vibrating.  Only now could I spare the energy and time to cry. And cry I did. After the last tear fell and the last of the terror shook free from my hand, I felt drained and my body went a little limp. My dad, a man who although is very sensitive and passionate, never cries, is never rattled. My dad was shaking. He was breathing heavy and he, like me, was not okay.

We took a moment to just remember how to breathe. Lily was making faces at herself in front of the mirror. She was back in her stroller and safe. SAFE. We collected our material finds and proceeded to check out and then onto home.

I never truly believed when people would say “It only takes a second.” For us it was “20, 40, 60 GONE”. My dad found her 30 yards away. She was having a ball crawling as fast as she could, enjoying her new found freedom.

I share this experience, at the risk of looking like a distracted, bad parent, because I was one, at least for that moment, and because for some, their ending of their story has no happy. We all make mistakes and I am forever grateful that mine wasn’t permanent and this story has a happy ending. Hug your children a little tighter and be safe during the insanity of your life. 🙂 Peace to you all.

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