It was meant to be a quick trip to the beach. Instead it turned out to be a jaunt down memory lane.
By the time we finally peeled ourselves away from yesterday’s to-do list (or actually just threw our hands up and admitted things simply were not going to get done), and bargained with ourselves for 30 minutes in the sun, the clouds had begun to gather. We were not deterred, not even when, after we’d unfurled our chairs and opened the magazines, the rain began to fall. It was a just a sprinkle, lasting mere minutes, and the sun was out again in no time.
Determined, we stuck it out. The change in weather might have been a perfect metaphor for our crazy lives, but we are experts at multitasking, wedging a task in among others and all other forms of juggling and cheating time. (Even now, as I write this, I am letting the fluoride treatment the dental hygienist painted on my teeth do its thing.)
Anyway, about 10 pages into New York, the normal beach sounds were pierced by a blood-curdling, anguished mother’s scream. Emma was missing.
Her mom wailed and screamed the child’s name in an otherworldly tone that sent the hair on my neck upright. And she ordered her shocked, mute husband to get the lifeguard. A bunch of us sprang to our feet, one of the group asking Emma’s age and what she was wearing.
And THANK GOD that just then another woman came running down the beach with the 3-year-old, pink-swimsuit-wearing tyke. She was fine, had simply wandered off and didn’t understand what all the fuss was about.
I think everyone on the sand breathed a simultaneous sigh of relief.
Of course it brought back the time when Basil lost Catherine in the mall. She was closer to 5, and had followed the sights and sounds when Basil had turned his back for “just a minute.”
Thankfully she remembered the rule we drilled into her head: If she was ever separated from us, she was to stay put.
Basil found her in quick order, and she told him, “I was waiting for you, Daddy.”
Catherine clung to every word of the tale over dinner, as all kids do when the story is about them.
“Did you ever lose me?” she asked, turning to me.
I hadn’t, but teased her, saying we’d tried for years to GIVE her away but there were no takers.
The truth is, however, that over the years I managed numerous other award-winning parenting moments, including neglecting to belt her into the stroller so that she tumbled out, and smashing her chubby little fingers in the closet door.
Well, not just smashing them. When I couldn’t figure out why the door wouldn’t close, I kept pushing on it, giving her a nice set of bright-red indentations.
How she managed to reach 16 in spite of us, God only knows.