Rendez-Vous

Thursday, December 19th 2013

Because Grandpa Pops had flown into town, we were all going out to dinner.  Us four, my husband’s sister’s family of four, and Grandpa.  Four kids, five adults.  For those of you who know Cambridge, we walked our way from Dana Park, up Pearl Street to Mass Ave in “Mental” Central Square.   Sidewalks flanked with snow banks in the dark, we were naturally strung along in clumps.  A cousin here, an uncle there, Grandpa, aunties, children, a stroller, etc.   Although my boy was up ahead out of my view for most of the walk, as we turned onto Mass Ave he caught up with me to say, “Mom, isn’t it amazing that I *jogged* almost this WHOLE WAY!?!”  (Modesty hasn’t really materialized yet in the repertoire of this invincible five year old. Why should it?)  “Yeah babe!” I say, etc., discussing it as we walk past Cheap-O Records, the Italian shoe store, Goodwill and the Phoenix Landing Pub before turning into Rendez-Vous Restaurant.  We get seated in the waiting area while they check whether they can spontaneously come up with a table for nine.  During this time my 2 y/o daughter starts eviscerating my purse, immediately finding some of the amusements I had planted there for LATER when kids might grow restless during dinner.   The kids inspect the Silly Putty before compliantly returning it to my purse for intended purpose, and we are told it would be about a 30 minute wait.  Considering our demographic (four under 10), and the fact that Tavern on the Square is always a safe bet for these occasions, we bail and go back outside.  “Where’s Gavin?”

I don’t know who said it first, but yeah right, where IS Gavin?  He’s not out here with us on the sidewalk.  Is he still in the restaurant?  Definitely not there through the window.  Did he go to the bathroom?  (By himself?  Without telling anyone?)  He was right next to me just moments earlier as we arrived at the restaurant.  He was still chatting with me as we passed the Phoenix, which is right here next door.  We’re all looking for him.  He’s NOT in the restaurant bathroom?  I’m looking up and down the street.  “No way.”  Abject denial.  “Nuh-uh.”   I walk a few steps past Hi-Fi pizza to check around the corner.  I see the usual bee-hive activity around The Middle East Night Club; rockers and revelers, punks and kids and the usual mix of regular citizens dotted with the occasional drunk or panhandler.  In other words, NOTHING.

I shut down.  That he could be SOMEWHERE OUT THERE THAT I DON’T KNOW WHERE IT IS.  I stand there on the street holding my daughter’s stroller handles, unable to think or act.   I don’t know how you say, “NO WAY NO HOW” in the wordless, physiological language of ancient body instincts, but that’s what mine was saying.  I’m looking WAAAY down the street, and maybe see a smudge of red, like as if that could be his red winter coat, but… what?  “That CAN’T BE.”  Then Paul’s sister says something to him and he takes off in a sprint down the street towards MIT.   That was the direction I had been looking too.  I shove the stroller at my nephew, “STAY WITH CLARAJANE!” and take off after him.

We run across Brookline Street and down the sidewalk towards the fire station.  Running into oblivion.  What else to do?  Just before the fire station is the Salvation Army, with a ubiquitous Salvation Army bell ringer in a red apron, ringing a bell next to her money kettle, talking to our son in his red jacket.  Paul snatches him up into a 6 foot, 9 inch high hug.  I turn my attention to the police officer who is being summoned by a witness across the street.  “Officer!”  I call, “That’s our son!!”  He comes over, along with the woman who was reporting what she saw to him, and we started piecing the story together.

According to the woman -who had seen everything and sort of tracked him- Gavin had apparently turned his attention to inspect some bicycles parked in the snow bank just before we turned into the restaurant.  (“When your mother ditched you!” according to Pops.  Thanks Pops.)  Not seeing us when he looked up, he PROCEEDED down the street to find someone who could help.   Thanks to very explicit training by *my* mom -his Bubble Wow- he knew to seek ideally a police officer, or someone in a uniform, someone who is official looking, and preferably working somewhere (or another mom with kids… not likely this time of night).  Apparently he started crying as he continued down the street, but walked right up to the bell ringer in her red Salvation Army apron, telling her what happened.  While talking to her he pointed out the police officer parked across the street, and suggested that someone get him as well.  It was the woman who had tracked him who was dispatched to cross the lanes of Mass Ave to go talk to the cop, which is when we arrived.  (Why she witnessed the moment of separation without having directed him back to us I don’t know.  But she had tears in her eyes, and couldn’t find where she was going either and some people are just shy I guess and I chalk it all up to the confusion of the moment.)

The bell ringer told us all this.  And repeated it, repeatedly.  I was full of nerves as I too recounted the whole episode to the cop, repeatedly as well.  I was trying to be as transparent as possible to aid him in assessing whether he needed to call DSS on us or not.  By about the 10th recounting of events by the bell ringer, the cop politely said, “So… do you need anything else here?”  “Not unless you need to cuff me for my negligence!” I said.  Ha ha.  The cop was such a young baby face himself it was striking to me.  He politely declined and went on his way.   I made use of the kettle to symbolically defray a fraction of my (immeasurable) karmic debt.  My husband kindly let me have my son back so I could hold and carry him on our way back.

“Good thing my Bubble Wow taught me what to do when I get lost!” proclaims our Boy.

That was pretty much his refrain.  “Wait,” I say later, as my senses slowly start to filter back.  “You crossed BROOKLINE Street, without an ADULT?!”  I ask, incredulous.  “I STOPPED, LOOKED AND LISTENED!”  he shoots back, indignant.

My GOD.  A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.  He DID know what to do.  It is also his confidence, competence and independence that got him INTO the situation, AND what enabled him to navigate through it.  (Hmm… seems vaguely familiar.)  That nobody untoward noticed his vulnerability and snatched him away is… by the grace of God and blessing of the Fates… the simple fortune to which I -the woeful mother, as all mothers- am hostage.

“Can I take any drink orders?”  says our lovely Tavern waiter.  “Well I just lost my son in Mental Square for ten minutes,” I say, “So I’ll have a really tall beer to cry into now thank you very much.”  Eyes wide in empathetic shock, “You got it” he says.

Daddy is having one too

I pull out stationary and pens and hand them to Gavin.  Without protest he obliges:

Dear Bubble Wow

It does not look that far on Google Maps:  (farthest 500 feet of my life)

To think I could never see this blonde head again…

I guess he is happy to be back with me too.

(Photo by Gavin)

“He that hath children hath given hostages to fortune.”   —Francis Bacon (?)

*I’m* not lost Mommy! (Photo by Gavin)

And what’s this?

Boharts

Even 8 and 10 year olds (my niece and nephew) still sit on their parents’ laps sometimes!?  Color me happy!

Love Gav

Merci, mon garcon, pour le Rendez VOUS.

Merci Dieu.

About circuskitchen

performing artist, mom, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, niece... just a regular extraordinary person
This entry was posted in childhood, domestic life, faith, family, food, forgiveness, Friendship, health, love, marriage, mental health, parenthood. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Rendez-Vous

  1. MaryMargaret says:

    Oh. My. God. You just lost 5 years off your life. Six months for every minute of The Missing. So don’t feel guilty. The penalty has already been extracted.

    It may be that you need to lose track of a child once before the instinct becomes quite well enough developed to look back and around at the appropriate intervals (appropriateness of interval varying with circumstance and other cues). An example of what I mean by spotting FUBAR before it gets close enough to smack you in the face.

    And you can still make a mistake. There’s a reason I wouldn’t take 2 boys at once to the MOS until they got older. Even so, when Robert and I took them at age (?)3 we lost track of Miles for a few minutes and Robert found him one or two displays over, where he had wandered, and Miles is not even a wanderer. (Maybe the MOS is a reason he doesn’t wander much now.)

    Yes, it’s always been Gavin’s MO to assign his grownup most of the responsibility for keeping together, and seldom the reverse. That may be the Next Lesson You need to help your grownups keep track of you by paying attention to where the grownups are and not being afraid to yell “Hey, wait a minute! I’m over here!” But, again, anyone can make a mistake and he shouldn’t be made to feel this is his fault.

    So understandable how he got lost among the musical restaurant moves of the mob. And remained stalwart and recalled what he knows about safety and followed his internalized directives, even though clearly distressed and unable to hold back tears. He identified an appropriate uniformed rescue person AND a backup rescue person and started directing events. SO Gavin.

    The observer lady was a blessing, too, she may have intervened if he hadn’t found the kettle lady and the cop. Good-guy random citizens are more numerous than the other kind. Like the guy who saw Miles wobbling downhill bicycle and was running toward the crash site even before the crash occurred. Like the lady at Park station who helped Miles and me find the right train at rush hour and squeezed us into it and herself waited for another train.

    The boys actually LOVE our game, which we play in the basement when we have to go down there for something, I think the spookier spiderweb-y basement ambience enhances the impact. It’s about what to do when someone wants you to come close or come with them, and that the person may seem very nice and say convincing things like “Your mom is sick and your dad sent me to bring you home,” or “you remember me, don’t you? I’m your friend’s dad,” or offer puppies or candy. Miles and Gavin of course want to fling insults or kick and punch, and the lesson is no, get away as quickly as possible, don’t get close enough for them to grab you, they are much bigger and stronger than you, so put as much distance as you can between you and them and find a grownup to help you.

    To find such a person, yes, a police officer or otherwise uniformed person, and I guess they’ve seen enough bell ringers to know they’re benign. We talked about going into a store or — “a BANK” — one of the boys offered, who had just been to a bank with mom, to find a person to help. And they know their addresses and their mom’s names.

    One day during the game Ruth’s daughter Rebecca was in the basement and she happily played the role of the nice person to find for safety while I was the bad guy sweet-talking the boys.

    I remember you getting lost at Lucky’s in Oakland at about 4. You knew you were lost before I did, put on your big-girl panties and marched resolutely up and down the aisles searching without a single tear or sound escaping before we found each other.

    The so-hard part is balancing safety and erring in the direction of helicoptering against encouraging independence, trust, confidence-building. No wonder you drank heartily that night!!!

  2. paysonroadfarm says:

    This post literally had me in tears! The longest 500 ft. of your life- I BET! But OMG- I can’t imagine what that must have seemed like at the gait of a distressed 5 year old! (6 yet?) 500 MILES!?? What a brave boy! Accidents happen, they’re preventable sure to a degree, but things can get crazy (Mental Square being an awesome example) and it sounds like he had the tools and the composition to handle the situation *perfectly*. It sounds like he’s being forearmed well on all fronts by the adults he is close to. What you can’t prevent you can prepare for.
    Wow wow wow!!! So happy that this turned out fine.
    I think Bubble Wow is right when she says there are more good strangers than bad, and thank the powers that be for that.
    Oh, good boy Gavin! Good, good, good boy!! xxoo

    • Piper, thank you for your comments. And your connection with me on this one. It is so awesome we have these blogs. I just love following yours and it is so cool to share parenthood experiences like this! Merry Christmas by the way. Be in touch! Blessings…

  3. Kathy Ziegler says:

    We just got home from Charlotte, but Laurie let me read your post. Thank heavens for bubble Wow and the great end result. Enjoy the next few days, they are precious.

    Love, kathy

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