Sunday, October 17, 2010
For 3 minutes today I lost Alyce.
We were at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania having some lunch with friends before taking a walk. We had enjoyed our lunch outside and had spent some time letting the girls play in the garden next to the patio. Our friends went inside the restaurant to use the washroom before packing up and Matt was changing Shira on the grass, with Alyce weaving her way through the benches and trees right next to Matt. I was watching all of this from the table, enjoying the view from no more than ten feet away. I heard Matt ask Alyce to come closer and I looked up to see her loitering around a tree just a little too far away. I started to pack up our lunch for just a second and then looked up to make sure Alyce had listened to Matt. She was gone.
It was an impeccable fall day and the gardens were busy. But instantly it felt like there were thousands of people all around me and I couldn't see past them to find my daughter. I got up and started to look around for Alyce, expecting to see her each time I turned my head. Nothing. I walked a little faster and checked the two paths that led out of the garden patio. Nothing, just so many people everywhere. I looked behind and saw Matt getting up with Shira, realizing that I hadn't found her yet. He started looking.
The panic that started to settle in my belly was startling, but still felt far away enough that I didn't think something was really wrong. I would pass the next patio table or tree and find her. I would find her standing right there. But then I didn't, and the panic felt a lot closer. I just wanted Alyce so terribly at that moment. That's when I began calling out her name and that's when other people started to pay some attention. Where the hell was she?
Of course I found her. I ran inside the restaurant for lack of another place to search and there she was just standing there, just as I'd hoped before. A woman had spotted her outside and was looking inside for a manager or someone who could help Alyce, who was at that moment only known as that lost girl with the head of messy blond hair and blue eyes overtaking her little face. She didn't even know she was lost. I scooped her up and said all the things that go through your head in that moment. I love you. Don't ever leave mama like that. I love you.
To that sweet older woman who looked after Alyce for that blink of a few moments: thank you.