June 23, 2008 by Marj Hatzell
Contrary to what you might be thinking, my greatest fear is NOT that there is going to be another potato famine and we’ll run out of potatoes. Although I hint at being a teensy bit obsessed with food (Ok, FINE! I’m totally obsessed with food.), the truth is that I am not so much concerned with what goes in my mouth at the moment. This weekend I was reminded about what is really important in life. My kids and their safety.
Bug Boy spent a few days with my sister and I was in heaven not having to turn off ceiling fans and roll up windows so that he can’t feel the “windy” blowing his arms hairs (I’m not making this up.). My niece wants to spend the whole summer here (not making that up, either) and I promised her she could stay the weekend, or as long as her parents would let her before they realized that one of the two children they are saving for college for is currently not residing at the same address. ALL DAY Saturday my niece played with the neighborhood girls after two of them had a birthday party, from dress-up to school to painting nails to reading to chalk drawings outside. Bug Boy played with the neighborhood boys and around four o’clock they were all sweaty and tired and complaining. In an effort to cool everyone off, I invited the kids to play in the pool, sprinklers and slip-n-slide. Their moms joined us pool side and we chatted and the kids ran around and played, screaming and shrieking in pure joy. Bugaboo was in his glory, splashing in the pool and then jumping in the dirt pile and getting covered with mud.
As it grew later, the husband and I decided to throw some burgers and hot dogs on the grill for the kids. It was sorta chaotic. Just a teensy bit, with eleven kids running around the yard, through the house and up and down the street. Darling he HAD TO run out and get chicken to make his own homemade nuggets (they rock, y’all.) and I sent Bug Boy with him, except that he was having a global nuclear meltdown at the time and it took both Darling and I to get him in the car. That’s when I noticed Bugaboo’s Elmo Chair in the driveway. Hmmmm…wonder how that got out there?
At the exact moment I realized that the front door was unlocked and Bugaboo was most likely running around the neighborhood, one of the cranky-people-who-hates-kids-drawing-on-her-sidewalk-with-chalk rounded the back of the car with a look of terror on her face. She stammered, “Um. Is that your little guy running across the street? Nekkid? He was trying to get in my house.”
I dropped everything and ran like a bat out of Hades. I kid you not, I darted up the street and knew exactly where he was going. The kids that were at my house have a big dirt pile in their unfenced yard and Bugaboo is constantly coming up with creative ways to end up there, from cutting through other neighbor’s yards to riding his bike by and jumping off and darting into their yard. I screamed called his name and he came skipping around the side of their house. Nekkid. Covered in dirt from head to toe. No, covered in mud from head to toe, with tribal-style mud smears under his eyes, in his hair, down his torso and strategically placed on his legs. It was like Lord of the Flies, yo. After I put my heart back in my chest (I was a little nervous, y’all.) I scolded him and he smiled triumphantly, as if to say, “HA! I TOLD you I was going to play at their house! GO ME!”
With my nekkid child clinging to the front of me, I crossed the street as he covered me in kisses and hugs. My neighbors and husband were relieved, I thanked them profusely and apologized for their trouble. After bringing him back to the yard, I double-checked all locks on the gates and made sure the front door was bolted and locked. No chance of him leaving again. Nope, not gonna do it. Until…
Two hours later the kids were filtering out, their mothers were dragging them home screaming and we were all cleaning up the yard. The husband and I dragged my boys, my nephew (who was also staying the night) and my niece inside and scrubbed them down, since they were a teensy bit muddy. One of the neighbor girls that gets along famously with my niece (we’ll call her The Actress) begged to stay the night, so I took the girls a few doors down to talk to her mother. When I left the house, the husband was in the living room with the three boys. I walked the girls down to get The Actress’ things and came back to the house. The front door was closed but as soon as I walked in I felt something was wrong. I only counted two boy heads. There should have been three. I looked at the husband and said, “WHERE IS HE?” Gulp.
We both darted out of the house. I sent the husband in one direction, banged on Polite Boy’s door and asked them for help, sending the kids and parents in all directions. I ran across to the Actress’ house, since that is where Bugaboo likely was, and we all screamed his name, checking every yard. Bugaboo was nowhere to be found. Just when I was about to run in and call the po-po, I noticed a neighbor from THE NEXT STREET OVER, carrying a small boy that looked awfully familiar. He was cutting through the yards behind our street and asked, “Is this who you are looking for? I thought I recognized him from school!” Yup. It was Bugaboo, beaming from ear to ear. It turns out that the Dad who found him has a daughter who goes to school with all of the kids and knows us from soccer, baseball and school functions. Lucky for us, when Bugaboo went and played on their swings and tried to get into their house, he knew exactly where he belonged.
With many of our neighbors gathered around, my ears burned in embarassment. I was grateful for having neighbors that cared so much about Bugaboo but felt sadness mixed with the relief of finding him. Many of my neighbors have pools, most of them in-ground. If it took forty seconds to lose him last time, and nearly five minutes to find him, how long until he wanders into one of the yards with the pools? A kid like him could drown in about thirty seconds. He is non-verbal. He wouldn’t even be able to call out. No one would be able to hear him. I don’t even want to think about it.
Needless to say, yesterday we bought new gate locks and a new alarm system for the doors…