I was re-planting my succulents, placing each tiny successful propagation into the soil. I had five mini pots of propagated mandalas and they needed watering. Adler was cooing next to me on the porch in his bouncy. Graeme was walking around the field just beside the house in his galoshes toting a tiny truck he had just found in the dirt. He started banging his toy truck on the propane tank, ping ping ping… I said back to him, “ping ping ping goes the truck!” I walked back to the front porch less than ten feet away and returned with another potted beauty to water.
Graeme was gone, no where to be found. He had just been at the propane tank, which was a good distance from our long driveway, Eric had just mowed the fields so without hesitation or worry I called his name and quickly scanned the field and entrance to our surrounding woods. But nothing. He often wanders to the woods or around to the backyard, he couldn’t be far he was just there a second ago.
I ran to the porch, as it looks over the back acreage and yelled for him. Nothing. I couldn’t see his minty shirt and curly hair anywhere. I didn’t see Ruby. Our golden either. One is usually not far from the other.
It had been about three minutes, I went into the house and told Eric that I needed his help, that I couldn’t find Graeme. His expression went bug eyed, “What do you mean you can’t find him!?” I explained what had happened and where I was, where Graeme had been. We walked outside and began calling for him, over and over and over…
Ten minutes. Ten whole minutes had passed and I could hear Adler crying on the porch. I ran back to him, scooped him up and took off down the driveway. It wouldn’t have been the first time I had caught our two year old venturing down our long gravel driveway, pushing his Tonka dump truck with a purpose. I imagined my two year old taking a turn and wandering down the dirt road. I called his name, again and again. I ran to the end of our driveway (it’s probably 300 yards to the road), I peered down both ways and saw no trace of my baby. I cupped Adler to my chest and ran in my flip flops back towards the house, peering into the woods, calling his name.
I made it to the porch, took Adler inside, buckled him in his swing. I tossed my flip flops and grabbed my work shoes and ran back outside. Where is my baby?
Eric had grabbed the quad and was riding around calling him. I started again, this time I walked into the woods not too far from where I had last seen him. I called and called, snagged myself on wild thorn bushes, rolled my ankles running over dips and holes in the Earth, screaming at the top of my lungs “GRAEME!!!”
I was hyperventilating. Eric rode passed me, “I can’t find him! What else do we do!?” I had my phone gripped in my hand, my heart racing, my breathing short and gasping, “We keep looking!” I called my mother in law.
“Linda, are you home? We need you! We can’t find Graeme, please, please come help me find my baby….” She told me she’d be right over. The tears were now rolling down my face, my body was shaking, my mind was racing with what ifs… I popped out of the woods and ran over another 100 yards to the tall grasses bordering my neighbors yard. Calling his name hysterically.
I called mama Jaye, through gasping breaths I begged her to come help me. “Jaye! Are you working, please we need your help, Graeme is miss…missing..” My words were getting lost in my emotions, I could hardly understand myself, “on the property, he’s lost on the property!”
“I’m coming hunny, I’m coming, I’ll be right there!” Jaye said with fear in her voice.
I noticed my neighbors had multiple play structures, that their driveway went straight out to the major road. Maybe he wanted to go on the slide? Like sweet little two years olds do. Ruby had come out of nowhere and was now following me as I frantically ran through the trees and bushes. I scanned the neighbor’s yard and down the driveway… Nothing. No toddler. I was numb.I had lost my child on ten acres of field and woodlands. My baby was lost! I kept running and calling his name, begged Ruby to go find Graeme, watched as Eric rode in and out of the wooded trails, hoping to see him with a smiling baby boy in those royal blue galoshes.
I searched back farther than I’ve ever been, finding new trails, crossing over into neighboring properties. No sign of my little guy anywhere. Then, a thought, a dreaded thought – WATER.
We have a few ponds on our property, I ran as fast I could, what if he fell in!? Across the driveway into the adjacent woods. I came up to the first body of water, I saw no ripples, no trace of a two year old in galoshes, I watched the water, scanned the murkiness for my baby, for any disturbance, nothing. I ran to the next pond, again, no sign.
I kept running through the woods screaming, my voice cracking, my head pounding, my heart aching. With each cry came more exhaustion. It’s been too long. Could someone have taken him? Will we ever find him? Fuck! What did I do!? I failed my baby, where…where is my baby!?
My mother in law had arrived and began calling out for him as well. She called 911 and reported him missing. The three of us took off in different directions pleading for our little adventurer to answer our calls.
My legs were shaking harder, I felt light headed, my screams were desperate. A mother calling for her first born in pure desperation and fear, gut wrenching fear.
I took another trail into the woods, snagging myself on branches, crying, screaming, I could hear the screams of my family pleading for Graeme to return. My heart was sinking deeper and deeper. I did this. I lost him. My life will never be the same, I’ll never forgive myself.
I came to an opening, our neighboring farm, a large open field of…nothing. No toddler in galoshes playing with his truck. Nothing but rows and rows of meticulously planted fields. I could hear Eric close by on the quad, he saw me and drove over.
“I can’t find him, I don’t know what else we can do!” His eyes were wide, his face had lost it’s color. “We just have to keep looking… He was right there. It was only a minute.. Eric where is our baby!?” He had me get on the quad, I wrapped around him, we whipped through the woods ducking under low branches and snagging on rose bushes, I screamed and screamed, my voice wavering, dispair filling my soul, it had to have been close to forty minutes of searching for our tiny spirited toddler. Forty minutes of hell.
We drove into the tall neighboring fields, scanning for his mint colored shirt, begging for him to answer. We came over a hill on our neighbor’s hay field and Eric’s body relaxed… “There! There he is!”
There he was in his royal blue golashes. Wild eyed and confused. Bent over in the weeds taller than he is standing, holding his tiny truck in one hand and picking flowers with the other.
I lost my mind. I balled like a fool. Deep wails of gratefulness. I buried my face into my hands and felt shame, fear, relief…I had been hyperventilating, obviously in a panic. Eric picked Graeme up and handed him to my frozen, in shock body.
“Graeme could you hear us calling you?” Eric said as he passed him to my shaking arms, Graeme nodded and looked confused. Why was mama so hysterical? “Graeme, give your mama a hug, give her a big hug. You scared us so bad, you can’t wander off like that buddy, we couldn’t find you. Look at mama look at how scared and sad she is.” I held him in my quivering arms. I fumbled with the phone to call Linda and Jaye, to tell them we had found him.
I could hear sirens in the distance. Eric got back on the quad and with Graeme sandwiched between us, we drove through the fields back up to the driveway.
The State Police were pulling into our round about, Jaye had just gotten out of her jeep and Linda was intently watching as I lead Graeme to them with my hand tightly gripping his.
Graeme was silent. My chest was heaving, my heart was tired from the race it had just endured. Tears were rolling down my face…my heart aches.
The state trooper opened his door and immediately his stern facial expression softened. The missing boy had been found. I apologized profusely through a shaky voice, thanked them all for coming to our rescue. Our baby boy had been found. The trooper smiled and asked Graeme if he had gone on an adventure, asked for Eric and I’s licenses since he had responded to the call, he had to do a report. He told Graeme to stay close by and not to wander off the beaten path anymore, “you scared your mommy to death…” Entirely accurate statement.
The trooper left. Linda, Jaye, Eric, Graeme and I retreated to the house. The baby was awake happily swinging in his swing. Golf was playing on the TV, and I was numb.
I’ve heard the gut wrenching stories of children gone missing, or toddlers falling into gorilla cages, or being pulled into the water and drowning by alligators or being hit by cars while playing frisbee. I know our children are quick, and curious, and need the watchful eye of an adult… It didn’t matter today, I literally turned my back to him for a minute and lost him for 45 minutes. For nearly an hour my heart was being ripped from my chest.
I’m drinking a beer now. Will probably take a drag of a cigarette, and will definitely cry more tears by the end of the night, probably into the next day too. Today my worst fears almost became my reality, today I quiver and shudder to the thought that my son could have drowned in our pond, or fallen and hurt himself lost in the woods, or wandered to the busy road and been hit by a car, or that some stranger had grabbed him from under my nose. My life flashed before me today, the life of my child flashed before me today.
I don’t think I’ll ever be the same.