Today I had the worst hour of my life and the best hour all in the same hour. I lost my little girl Miriam for about 30 minutes. The whole family was at the ampitheater by our home participating in our son, Tobie's Cub Scout Raingutter Regatta. Emma and Miriam played in the little kiddie pool that was provided to test out the boats before the actual race. Hannah was fast asleep, Tobie was focused on how he could win and Theo, being the Den Leader was caught up in the commotion of getting things in order and telling the other Tiger Cubs where to go. I was trying to video tape Tobie racing his boat, but our camera started to read "low battery" and then promptly died on me. I got a few pictures, but I was really looking forward to recording Theo trying to race the boat when it was the parents turn. Since we live just up the hill from the ampitheater I decided to run back to the house and grab some batteries. The girls were still preoccupied with the pool, Hannah still asleep so I told Theo I would be right back. I took off running for the car because I didn't want to miss any of the action. As I got in to the car I noticed my little Miriam trying to chase after me. She was still close to the crowd, so I made the stupid assumption that Theo would see her. I debated getting out, but then I saw her falter and turn back towards the cheering group behind her. I felt reassured that she would head back, or at the least start playing at the little kids park that is in the same area. There were some other kids there and another parent. I didn't think twice about it as I put the car in reverse and zoomed up the hill to the house. I was only gone maybe 4 minutes. When I returned I ran back to the group where Theo and the other Tiger Cubs were finishing up and making room for the Bears. Theo looked at me and asked me where Miriam was. I figured she was around somewhere and just shrugged as I started to scan the area looking for her bright blonde curls bobbing around. I couldn't see her and thought maybe I missed her as I walked past the little park and she is back there playing with the other kids. As I approached the park I still didn't see her and that is when panic started to manifest itself. The father that was there with his daughter told me that he saw a little girl walk up to the bathroom. I felt a false sense of calm as I assumed she would go in there since she was potty trained. But as I called her name in both the women's and men's there was no one in there. I took off running up the ampitheater stairs constantly looking over my shoulder sure that she was going to appear there. I got to the top of the stairs and I was literally a stones throw away from my house, it was just over another little hump. I didn't see Miriam anywhere. I backtracked by an old abandoned building, but still no Miriam. My screams became louder and louder and I was sure that the cheering crowd below was able to hear me. I called Theo who was down the hill searching for her, to tell him to get everyone there looking for her. I stopped two young men who were just riding by on their bikes and told them to start looking for a little girl in pink pants, "Her name is Miriam!" I shouted as they took off up the stairs that I had just returned from. I felt I was being pulled in every direction, my voice was going hoarse from screaming her name. I tried calling the police on my cell, but my hands were shaking so bad I couldn't push the buttons. Everyone was involved in the hunt now and someone else called the police, they were on their way. Someone, I don't know who, told me to sit down and stay calm. Emma was placed in my shaky arms, she was crying also not knowing what was going on. I said prayer after prayer, even yelling them out not caring who heard me. I started to hypervintilate as my imagine started to kick into overdrive, "what if someone saw her on the road and picked her up? they would call the police, right? what if the wrong person got to her first, what is happening to my baby right now?" Even now the recollection feels like my heart is being squeezed inside my chest. As my breathing started to get shallow and fast Tobie comes over to help calm me down. He puts his arm around my shoulders and is crying right along with me and Emma, and then he says something that snaps me out of hysteria and into outrage, "Mom, I'm hungry." "ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!!" At least he helped me not go into shock, but come on, there has to be some common sense here! I order him away and I continue to rock back and forth with Emma still clutching on. People kept coming up reassuring me that we were going to find her, but their assumptions were moot to me until they could actually place her in my arms. Theo suggested we walk back over to where the race was and Hannah since she was still fast asleep in the stroller. I pulled myself up, but it felt as if my core was going to collapse in on itself like a balloon does when you slowly release the air. I walked maybe two feet and then Theo's phone rang. I watched him answer and saw his shoulders fall, but in a good way. In a way that the weight of the world has just rolled down his back. He flips the phone closed and says the only words I could register, "They found her." I crumpled to the ground and immediately gave thanks to my Heavenly Father for bringing her back to me. She apparently did go up the stairs of the ampitheater and was found a little ways down the road from where I came out looking for her. The man who found her said she was just standing on the side of the road screaming and crying. When he approached her she flinched away from him, obvious that he was a stranger. When I finally saw her she was being carried down the stairs by Mr. Kimrey, an officer in the Coast Guard that is stationed at the same place Theo is. I ran up the stairs and took her from his arms. I couldn't hold her close enough. I wanted to seal her up inside of me so I would never feel that feeling of losing her forever. Her eyes were red and her bottom lip kept quivering, but she was safe and I was elated beyond belief. Theo and I kept repeating to her the importance of staying with mommy and daddy and not to wander off like that, but I know in my mind that it all could have been prevented. I can still see so vividly watching her from the car, how I had wrongly assumed that she would turn and go back to safety. If she had been lost forever, what would that memory do to me. I would have been lost forever in my own grief and guilt. But she wasn't lost forever and I am eternally grateful that Heavenly Father blessed me, my family and especially my sweet little Miriam with safety. As we were leaving the park we decided to treat the kids to McDonald's after such a terrifying ordeal. Theo was buckling Miriam in and once again one of us started into the safety precaution to stay with the family, she then made the comment, "Yeah, and the door was locked." I didn't mention before but this park and ampitheater is all in the back of her preschool and we have walked home several times, so she knows how to get to the house. She had come home and when the door was locked she went back out onto the road, lost her bearings and she started to panic.
I needed to write about this to make sense of it all. My thoughts have been random scattered images of this afternoon and I needed some order to combat the recurring panic. Cherish your little ones, you never know what trials lay before you. She was found, but it puts life into perspective on how easily it can be taken away.
Happy 43rd Birthday Matt!
5 months ago