Today I’m grateful that Maggie is alive. She was not kidnapped, trampled by a moose, eaten by a bear, or lost and frostbitten in the woods. Possibly more miraculously, her father and I did not kill her.
I should probably back up and explain.
The evening started off in a typical manner: I was tackling the dishes, Maggie was avoiding homework, and Sam was begging to watch college football. It was already dark when chaos ensued: one of the neighbor kids stopped by, and when Sam opened the door the dog bolted outside. “Playtime!” Tess hoped. Sam was more focused on football and chased her back into the house.
At this point Maggie was in the bathroom. I think. I’m sure she heard me talking to Sam about the need to take the dog outside for some exercise. Eventually he paused his beloved Baylor game and stomped down the steps.
That’s when we realized Maggie was missing. So was the dog.
At first I assumed they were down the road sledding with the neighbor kids. But nope, they hadn’t seen Maggie or Tess.
Sam noticed Maggie’s snow boots and coat were still in the entryway, right where she had set them after school.
Well that was weird.
I quickly searched the entire house, from the bedrooms to the garage. She was definitely not inside. But why would she be outside without her snow gear?
Sam and I yelled up and down the street, but there was no answer. I called a few neighbors, but they had not seen her.
At this point my mind started racing: maybe tess ran out the front door again and maggie chased after her without shoes or a coat and now she is frostbitten and lost searching for our dog in the woods, wait there is now a cul de sac where there used to be woods and who are these new neighbors anyway they drive so damn fast it’s surprising they didn’t run over that porcupine clark saw on the road the other night and omg wildlife are the bears still awake and we’ve been seeing so many moose and it is so dark and she is so little and her coat with reflective tape is just lying on the floor inside…
I am frantically screaming, “MAAAAAAAAAAGGIEEE!!! TESSSSSS!!!” but not sure which direction to run.
After about 20 minutes I called Clark, who was driving home from work. “Maybe we should call the police?” he asked. He could hear the genuine fear in my voice, and he was worried too. We decided he’d keep an eye out on his drive up the hill, and if she wasn’t home by then we would call.
And then, as if in slow motion, Maggie nonchalantly trotted around a corner. She was wearing soaking wet tennis shoes and a thin sweatshirt. The dog was on leash, prancing happily at her side. They were on their way home, completely oblivious of the anxiety they had caused.
Relief: that moment when every ounce of worry instantaneously transforms into anger
I marched her home. She heard me call her dad and the neighbors on the way, so by the time we crossed the threshold she had a pretty good gauge on the severity of the situation. There was no yelling, but there was plenty of crying. Clark pulled into the driveway just as I finished with her. Safety, communication, common sense, good choices… she got it all back to back.
How ironic that a mere five days ago I wrote a post about the “simple times” of Halloween and how “being a few blocks from us felt like all the freedom in the world” to the kids. As if that was sweet?
I’d like to make a disclaimer: being a few blocks away is simply too much freedom if the child is alone, in the dark, on icy roads, in freezing temperatures without winter clothing, roaming areas that are frequently shared with wild animals, or nine years old. Double that if the parent doesn’t even know she is gone! Triple that if all of the above!
How lucky we are when life gives us the opportunity to learn big lessons without serious consequences. We got a happy ending tonight, and I’m so, so grateful.