Saturday, June 16, 2018

Search Party

It's Barclay's busy season at work. For him, "busy season" means lots of six day work weeks, putting in extra time at the end of most days, fielding phone calls even when he's not on the clock, and two days in all of June that we get to be home as a family with no plans or obligations, work-related or otherwise.

I definitely can't complain; I know loads of people whose husbands are gone way more than mine, or who don't have someone to help them with their children at all, ever. But I'd also be lying if I said this summer wasn't kind of kicking my butt. I just feel like there's never any quiet. It's Barclay's busy season, and it's my loud season. And it's all okay, because it's just that: a season. I'm not worried about it lasting forever or anything.

Thankfully, though, it's also another season: summer. Which means that when the four walls of our little house start closing in on me and the kids, I can point at the front door and we can all march right outside. It's not necessarily quiet out there, either, but there's more room for our noise. At least it doesn't bounce off the walls out there.

So this morning, as usual, we went for a walk. Down Winnipeg to Scenic Drive, onto Broad and up to Trafalgar Lookout, where we, you know, looked out. Across Wascana Lake at the Leg.

Sullivan and Scarlett were throwing rocks into the water and I was hanging back, watching them, when from behind me I heard pounding feet and a woman screaming someone's name, over and over and over. She sounded desperate and I knew instantly that she'd lost her daughter.

She was there and gone so fast I couldn't talk to her, but it was obvious what was going on. I wished I could've flagged her down and asked if I could help. I wished I'd been quicker on my feet. The thought of losing a child at Wascana is an awful one—there's so much open water, so many people, such busy roads all around the perimeter...

I got a second chance just two minutes later. Another woman ran past, but she was screaming a different name.

It was the weirdest kind of deja vu.

I called to her as she sped past: "Have you lost someone?"

She looked at me, surprised. "YES!" She slowed enough to shout out a description; I was able to work out that hers was with the little girl belonging to the first woman. She looked terrified and my heart hurt, imagining how panicked I'd be if I were her.

"I'll look this way!" I yelled, pointing down another path and waving her on.

"Thank you so much! Thank you!" she called back. She sprinted off again and I plunked Sully and Scarlett in their wagon and we set off. I made the mistake of telling Sully he needed to keep his eyes peeled for some lost kids and we had to discuss for the next thirty minutes the fact that I didn't actually want him to peel his eyeballs.

As we walked, I thought about the two mothers and how scared they must be and prayed they and the kids would be okay. Every time we passed people who looked like they might be trustworthy mother-types (or grandmother-types) themselves, I told them about the lost children, and they also hurried off, saying stuff like, "I can't imagine; those poor women. We'll look over there." I wished I could somehow find the two mothers with the missing kids and tell them, "See, all these women are looking out for your kids and if any of us find them, we'll take care of them until we can find you again. They're going to be okay."

We walked all the way around the lake, and were almost back at our starting place when we passed a couple of older women I'd talked to earlier. "They're found!" they yelled gleefully, as excited as if they'd lost and found their own grandchildren.

So, a happy ending.

And one of those weird things, too, where the original two women will probably never know how many people were concerned for them and their kids and actively trying to help them, watching out for them. Maybe they felt, in that moment when they turned a corner and suddenly their kids were just gone, a little like they were suddenly standing on a tightrope over a terrifyingly open space, with no idea of the community working to build a safety net beneath them.

I wonder how often that happens in life. I love the idea that we're often not half as alone as we think we are.