And, as if by magic, she was gone!
This afternoon, on a beautifully sunny May Friday, I am pretty sure I aged about 30 years. In fact, it’s a miracle I’m still standing – surely I should be popping statins and wondering where I left my reading glasses by now, weary old soul that I now am?
One minute, she was sliding down a plastic slide, crazy static hair on end, and a big grin on her face. The next minute, as I said my goodbyes to a friend and prepared to leave the park, Evie had completely vanished. I figured she might have moved to the other side of the park, demanding that some reluctant 5 year old hold her hand and be her “fwend”. Or maybe she was at the picnic tables, shamelessly begging for food, with her imploring “I’m so hungry, and so cute” puppy dog eyes.
I wasn’t panicking. Yet. She’s always somewhere!.
Three more laps of the park, yelling “Evie. Evie. EVIEEEEEE, Where ARE you?!?”, and I’d checked all three picnic areas, the road running alongside the park, and the car park. I poked my head into the public toilets and called her name. I peered through the windows of all the SUVs parked nearby, and glared suspiciously at every man I saw, convinced he was the next Ariel Castro.
At this point, who knows how long after she disappeared (It felt like an hour, it was probably 10 minutes), I was completely frantic. All I could think about was Madeleine McCann. Particularly when I tried to describe her to a woman who tried to help calm my distraught self – 3 years old, mousey hair, straight bob with a fringe…..oh God, it’s Madeleine all over again!
It’s amazing what goes through your head in those awful, endless minutes. I thought of the McCanns, and what they must have gone through, and continue to endure (will I also be publicly vilified for allowing my sweet girl to play on a slide that wasn’t directly in my line of sight?). I remembered that my parents are currently holidaying in Sorrento, and wondered how on earth I would get word to them. I worried about how my husband would react (and at what point I should call him!), and whether he would blame me. I remembered the video I had taken of her this morning, singing songs at our Mothers’ Day Brunch, and wondered if I would hear her sing again.
And I tried to remember….is it 000, 999, or 911 for the emergency services here?
Every man I saw in that park was a perverted sexual predator. Every car that pulled out of the car park, as I ran screaming her name, was carrying my Evie away from me. Every minute that passed was a minute when I should have been doing more.
I think it was when I started wailing and beating my chest that the other moms started to take notice. They came to me, they tried to calm me, and one particularly lovely lady asked me to describe my daughter, and reassured me “This park is full of moms that want to help. We’ll find her, we’ll find her”.
Poor Henry. Watching his crazy mother unravel, right in front of his eyes.
Needless to say, given that I’m writing this blog, and not in a press conference somewhere, appealing for news of my child’s safety, we found her. Or rather, she found us. Where had she been? Why, in the Gents toilet, of course. She needed to pee. In fact, as she very proudly told me “I peed all by myself, mommy, I did it!”. The fact that her knickers were in a terrible twist, and her shorts on backwards suggest that she had some trouble re-dressing herself….which might explain the length of her absence (but not why she failed to respond when I stuck my head in the door and called “Evie? Are you in here?”).
This evening, as I tucked my little Houdini into her bed, read her a story and gave her a cuddle, she whined “Mummy, I couldn’t find you. I lost you. It was scary!”.
You’re not kidding, my devastatingly independent little monster – it was, frankly, terrifying.
I’m still shaking. I hear it’s a rite of passage. And it is, undoubtedly, not the last time that one of my children will put the fear of God into me. But right now….Mummy needs vodka, and Evie’s getting a leash!!