“Emma’s with you, right?” I was standing with my clients, a mother and a daughter, and they were discussing whether or not they were going to take the house I was showing them. But when I heard those words from my husband, I couldn’t care less if that house was on fire, if thieves were shooting it up, or if a huge tsunami wave gushed by and carried it away. So, immediately I went into denial mode and said, “Very funny, sweetheart”. He really is a jokester. But this time was different. I could tell. I could hear him frantically walking through the house, and instantly I imagined him checking every corner and every nook in the house, for this two year old bandit. I felt my knees almost give, and I walked away from my clients, feeling suddenly & extremely frantic. “No,” I cried, “I left her there with you! She has to be there!” I thought my heart was going to leap out of my chest, as I was considering dropping everything I had in my arms and running as fast as I could to my car, without a single word to my clients. I didn’t care. I just remember sputtering off bizarre pleas to anyone and anything listening, until Dan very calmly said, “Sweetie. There is nothing you can do about it right now.” He was right, you know. I was a good 23 minutes away. There was nothing I could do but wait and hope she’d be found.
Now. Mothers. I know you know what I’m talking about. That feeling. That feeling that says, in a moment of complete terror, that this is a crazy dream. Where suddenly you’re going to open your eyes and your two year old little girl is going to suddenly appear. I remember it all so well, that distinct moment when I actually felt my mind going to la la land. Where my husband wasn’t frantically searching for our daughter. But that moment of wishful thinking lasted about two seconds, and then I regained my composure. I was there, in real life, with my head in my hands, and my body about to crumble to the ground. Where my daughter was gone. Where I actually did not know if she was safe.
And then I saw her. In my mind. Bundled up, under her covers, in her bed. Asleep and completely hidden. I don’t know how I knew, but I knew. “Dan, look in her bed”.
And there she was.
I don’t remember much after we hung up. I don’t remember finishing up the conversation with my clients, and I don’t remember much about the drive home. But I remember praying. And I remember wondering how long it would take for my body to stop shaking. All night. That’s how long. It took my body all night to return from the worst place it could possible venture. You see, I had so many things enter my mind during that two minute phone call. I imagined she’d followed my car out of the driveway and into the street. I imagined she’d escaped through a door and some evil person grabbed her. I imagined horrible, unthinkable things. And when my mind realized none of those things were true, it embraced it and moved on. But not my heart. It took my heart longer. It couldn’t quite move on as quickly, and honestly, it was torture. I kept seeing her blue eyes. I kept hearing her voice over and over in my mind. And I could feel her little arms around my neck, her tiny voice whispering “goodnight, mommy”.
And I imagined it all being taken away from me.
But it wasn’t. That night I held her in my arms and kissed her forehead and made her go to sleep, even when she cried and begged for us to let her stay up extra and play with her animals. Boy, my heart wanted to let her. Oh, how I wanted to hold her a little extra that night. My heart yearned to keep her by my side. To watch her laugh, and play, and live. To have that reassurance that she really was okay…that she really was safe.
I probably should’ve let her.
But all is back to normal now. It's been days, weeks, months. Perhaps I’m a little more grateful then I was before. Perhaps we check on her more often while she plays. And maybe, someday, her daughter will do the same thing to her. And she’ll call me up, and tell me how scared she was. And she’ll tell me how grateful she is to know her daughter is safe.
And as we hang up, she’ll ask me if she should let her stay up extra that night to play with her animals. And I’ll smile.
And tell her she probably should.