Oh, what a day.
No one wanted to get up this morning. No one. Sometimes I think it's a gift that my first thought each morning is, "Man, I gotta pee." Otherwise, I'd never leave the sanctity of my Sleep Number bed and enter the cold, cruel world. (The only thing I have to look forward to, really, is hitting the ON switch of my already set-up coffeemaker on my way to the bathroom and having it mostly ready by the time I pass back by.)
Even Melody, whose habit of waking up cheerfully in the pre-dawn minutes has finally come in handy, is feeling it this Friday morning. Our usual routine where I get dressed, hand the girls clothes, put breakfast on the table, dress Charlie, leave them to eat while I put makeup on, then pour another cup of coffee and then hustle everyone out the door was stalled at a crucial step: the one where they all wake up.
If we aren't to my campus by the 7 o'clock bus pickup, we're in huge trouble.
The girls are finally dressed and moving, I skip the makeup step to carry Charlie to the window seat and dress him like a rag doll. I hand him a granola bar and put on his shoes, pausing only to hold the straw of his PediaSure to his lips.
I deposit him by the front door where the dressed, shod and backpacked Melody stands, then reenter the kitchen for the detoured Dixie. The impasse is the remaining six Frosted Mini-Wheats that grace her bowl.
Normally it's not a big deal for one or two to go get in PennyVann while I hustle out the dawdler, but this time Charlie was mad as Hell and not going to take it anymore. The source of injustice? There are no Legos at school, rendering it boring. And I didn't feed him nuffin (that he remembers, as he was apparently sleep-eating.) And school is so long dis year. And Daddy is not here.
Three or four minutes after depositing him in the doorway, Dixie and I depart. I set my things in the van and go to buckle Charlie's carseat, finding it empty. Melody, taking advantage of the reading light provided by the open van door, has no idea where he is. Dixie didn't see him. I go sweep through the house again, before returning to unbuckle the girls' carseat and booster, recruiting them for the hunt.
Every room. Every closet. Every bed. Surely, he just burrowed under covers and went back to sleep. Melody remembers his 'thinking rock' on the side of the house and we run out to find it empty. Trampoline. Playscape. Garden. Barn. Shed. Front yard. Back yard. Back back yard.
The sky is just beginning to lighten as I call 911. I call into work, letting them know of my delay. Look, look, look. I keep looking at the time, irate that the police surely taking their time, only to realize that time has frozen. Each time I certain that ten or fifteen more minutes have passed it's one or two. There's no where else to look, so I recheck the front yard. Both porches. Green cave. Side yard. Back of the van. Under the van. Along the fence line. Every shadowy corner.
They finally pull up and start with rechecking the house. Certain he cannot be there, two cars begin slowly cruising the neighborhood. Two men start sweeping neighboring backyards. Two more scour our enormous backyard and one stays in the house just in case.
Policeman number eight is asking questions. I am shocked to realize that I know the answers. For once, I can tell you exactly what he has on, how much he weighs and what his height is.
After a forty-five minute search, they start widening the area. A detective is on his way to collect information for the Amber Alert and the discussion of 'people you may have pissed off' begins.
A policeman walks up to the yard from a slightly different angle and sees one small leg in the beam of his headlights. The boy-in-a-ball is no longer concealed by the shadows of the tire, dumpster and crepe myrtle triangle.
Hugs. Real kisses. Protests of only loving imbisible kisses that are silenced by more hugs and real kisses.
At first, I assumed he'd found him in a neighbor's yard and brought him back, but this afternoon's re-enactment places him by PennyVann. The officer thought he may have been laying under the vehicle, but he wasn't dirty. I know I looked under that van. I know I looked along the side. I just don't know.
And at one point I almost asked the officer if I should leave to take the girls to school so that they'd be out of the way if this became a longer ordeal. Which would have rendered him either found or flattened as I left the driveway.
The thing that gets to me is that Charlie was perfectly still and silent for almost an hour. I would never have thought that possible. When we called his name, he did not say anything. He was too angry at the terrible mother who was taking him from a Lego Place to a non-Lego Place.
I tell you, it's been a week. This was the biggest of five big things Charlie did that were completely out of his character. Each time, his response was always 'I didn't know I wasn't supposed to' or 'but I didn't want to do' whatever it was he was supposed to be doing. He knew. He completely knew. And yet, he still did.
And all I could think was that I'd already been to one child's funeral this week. A friend from childhood lost her fourteen-year-old to juvenile diabetes. I kept looping through the thought that I can't go through what Marlo is going through. I just can't.
Because I just knew he'd rekindled his three-year-old fondness for standing in the middle of the street and that, in the black pre-dawn, this time they wouldn't stop.
Fortunately, later in the day, the car backing up in the Target parking lot heard my hawk-like screech and stopped as Melody jumped out of the way. And, even more fortunately, no attempt was made on Dixie's life.
Oh, what a day.