Every once in a while, God/the universe/all-that-is takes us by the ankles and hang us upside down. Until we plead for mercy. Maybe we need to learn a lesson. Maybe we need to offer more gratitude. Maybe it’s for our own good. Maybe. It just is.
I had to pick up my six year old stepson from after-school art camp. At first, I worried about making it on time. I rushed my daughter from her gymnastics class so we could elbow our way through the traffic (it does feel like elbowing, I’ve decided). We made it, on the dot. The school was not completely empty, but mostly. I went to the classroom. Room 104. But Room 104 was dark, small chairs stacked atop small desks.
Another mother (waiting for a child) must have sensed that I was having troubles because she was quick to offer advice and check on my progress every time I walked by. I peered into every classroom in the school. I talked to teachers and caregivers at Kids Co, scanning faces for the familiarity of my little one. (He doesn’t go to Kids Co.) I called my husband. I called my stepson’s mother. Rinse, repeat. Nobody answered. I discovered that art camp had been cancelled because of an early dismissal.
I stayed calm. Emile leaves school every day with the community center. If he wasn’t at school, he would be down the street. I wanted to leave and go right to the community center to look for him, but that other mother encouraged me to call first. So I did. A young man answered. He put me on hold for a few minutes while he “looked” for Emile. He came back and said those dreaded words, “Emile didn’t come here today.”
WHAT THE F***?!
Actually, that’s not what I said. But that’s when the situation began to spiral. And I regret my lack of control, but I DID say those words when I found out, 10-20 minutes later (I have no clue), that Emile was, in fact, at the community center. I was sitting in the principal’s office, clutching onto Giovanna, and I dropped the F-bomb. It was out of relief and anger, I suppose.
Looking back, the dots connected. The principal knew immediately that we needed to call the community center again. Order them to search the premises (though I believed I’d already done that). I am still unsure as to where that boy got his mis-information. I didn’t stick around to find out, I was desperate to get my kids and my precarious self back into the sanctuary of our nest.
The director of childcare at the community center (bless her heart) had called my stepson’s mother to inform her of the change in his plans earlier in the afternoon. But his mother had been out of touch, without her phone. Alas, this is the drama of a blended family. This is what happens when two families share in the care of a child. (A child every one adores and wants more time with.) Sometimes I wonder how and why our human lives must be so complicated.
I tried to figure out how I messed up. How could I have prevented this from happening? How will I prevent it in the future? Truly, the only thing would have been to pop back in my car and jet over to the community center right when I wanted to. Trust your intuition. But there was another wise voice on my shoulder, telling me to call first. She had a point. The school was the last place that I knew for sure he had been. The school offered clues and people who cared enough to help.
I’m done wondering why or how. I’m searching for gratitude in this experience. For the lesson. We have so little control. We have nothing but faith that everything will be okay in the end. Because it must be. But what could possibly be okay about a child disappearing? Try as we might to keep track of our loved ones, they tend to appear and disappear when we least expect them too. The more of our heart we give away, the more we have to lose. As I left the community center, both children under my wings, I was too relieved to stop and cause anyone further grief and embarrassment by cussing out the boy at the front desk. (The principal promised she would follow up, so I’m sure she’ll pass along the message.)