It was a HUGE crowd, and all I could do was weave in and out of it, sobbing and screaming my daughters name frantically.
Yep, I must've looked insane. And in that sixty seconds, which seemed like a million.....I think I actually was.
We were at a Realtor picnic party, where they had set up jumping castles and clowns, rock climbing and face painting, all for our little ones. They had food and treats, and cotton candy. Everything kids dream of. All free. And as much as they wanted. Hundreds of people showed up with their families to enjoy the carefree Saturday afternoon.
Dan and I were watching Emma jump happily in one of the castles. Rowie was munching on cotton candy in his stroller, smiling and grunting at anything walking by. And my sweet husband was slurping down a snow cone. A little girl had fallen while jumping, so I told Dan to watch the kids while I followed her to make sure she made it safely to her family. When I came back, Dan and Rowen were there, but Emma was not. I looked in the castle, but she was gone. "Dan, she's not here". I looked in the other castle just a few feet away, and I didn't see her there either.
Now, several things can happen at this point. For a NORMAL person. They (a) stay calm & look for their child, or (b) retrace steps and call people for help. For a crazy person, there is only one thing to do.
And you can imagine which category I fall into.
So there I was sobbing, my face in my hands, screaming Emma's name. People were staring at me, and I remember wondering how crazy I looked to them. And then a man appeared before me, took my shoulder, and said "I know what she looks like, I'll go look for her". I realized he was the man in charge of the castle she'd disappeared from. I nodded, literally feeling myself slipping into shock. I've never felt that before...it was horrible.
It's amazing the things you remember in a moment like this. I remember my body shaking uncontrollably, my mind whirling endlessly, and a feeling of complete and utter fear settling quickly in my gut. I looked at the faces staring at me and I wondered how everyone could be so calm.
But what I remember the most, as I searched through the crowd, was thinking Emma is not safe. Have you ever had that moment as a parent? It was the scariest moment of my life. I thought to myself, tonight my three year old is going to be alone. And if she was taken, who took her? What monster would she be facing tonight? And the saddest thought- she is going to grow up always wondering why her mother left her. I almost couldn't breathe.
I lost her.
I don't remember many details between the time I lost my insanity to the time I saw Emma again, but I do remember at one point spotting my husband trying to call someone on his phone. I held my breath, hoping he was trying to call me to tell me she was found. It wasn't until he looked up & saw me & signaled me over that I could breathe again. As we made eye contact I instantly knew Emma was found. His expression spoke volumes.
I rushed to him, asking frantically where she was. He pointed to the second castle (yes, I did check it, but obviously she is the world's greatest hider), and indeed, there she was.
Jumping and sliding to her heart's content.
I hugged Dan, who seemed way too calm for my taste, and left to find the guy who was still looking for our daughter. But not before I shook my husband about twelve times and made him vow he wouldn't take his eyes off her this time.
Through the crowd I found the stranger and thanked him, hugging him tight. I know he was just a guy, a bystander, a man I will never see again. But I have to say that the love I felt for him was overwhelming. I cried as I thanked him for the fifth time and he humbly smiled and told me not to worry about it.
I'll always be grateful for him.
Later, as Dan and I stood watching our daughter having the time of her life, I realized something. We were lucky. There are hundreds of parents who lose their children and never find them. Our Emma was safe. She was unharmed, and completely unaware of what had just happened. I don't think anything could have brought me down in that moment. And that night you better believe I hugged her a million times and kissed her until she scrunched her face. And I just kept thanking Heavenly Father. Over and over and over again.
I hadn't lost her after all.
But boy, I'll never forget the pain I felt when I thought I had.
And although that scary day is a bit of a distant thought now, I'm still reminded how blessed we are- every time she hugs me tight and kisses my cheek. I'm reminded when I hear her laughing in the background. I'm reminded when I hear her little feet coming down the hallway.
And oh, how I love those reminders.
Oh, and in case you were wondering what my sweet husband was doing when he temporarily "lost" our daughter......I asked him the same thing. "I was looking up something really important on my phone," he told me.
"Oh yeah?" I asked. "What was that?"
"How to get rid of ice cream headaches," he said.
"That snow cone was really cold!"