For as many years as I can recall we have been attending the fireworks extravaganza held in the town in which I grew up but no longer reside. (Aside: as you all know, my parents sent my brothers and me away for eight weeks every summer so I never participated in this activity as a kid, but I can tell you that it is a happening and everyone who is anyone is there. I might also note that my hometown is way cooler now than it was when I was growing up there, which, I will admit, makes me a little bitter. True.) Held on the front lawn of the high school it is a sea of people set up with chairs, blankets, strollers and impressive food spreads. This year ours included quinoa salad, grilled salmon, chips, dip, crudités and “coffee” (otherwise known as wine). We usually arrive around 6 pm (although my bestie and her hubby with whom we have been sharing this tradition for years, arrive early in the morning to set up “our” spot – seriously, this crowd is huge!) to hang out; listening to music, seeing people you haven’t seen since last Fourth of July and enjoying the weather. Truth be told, when my kids were little (and hyperactive) it was a little (and by a little I mean very) unpleasant because they were off in every direction which served as a huge impediment to my being able to relax. Apparently it was meaningful to them, however, since they both affectionately refer to it (and all other firework displays) as “magic sky”.
So, off we went (Rich, Jessie and me…Harrison bowed out this year) to “magic sky” armed with chips, salsa, Red Solo cups and some pre-mixed Margaritas (is that bad?) and found our rightful spot on the lawn. Upon arrival we were informed by bestie of a financially minor, but emotionally major larceny: sometime between their early morning set-up and their late afternoon return, someone (the heathen!) had lifted one of their chairs. Wow. This sure has become a blood sport. As we were armed with an extra chair it was all fine and no one was relegated to sitting on the ground. Problem solved. The chair, it turns out, would be only the first item to go missing.
Within moments of our arrival, Jessie scoped out a group of girls, ranging, I would guess, from ages 10 to 12 who were set up right next to us. She immediately worked her way over to their lot of land and managed to engage them within moments. (This is a skill that George initiated and Jessie has perfected. She is constantly making new friends everywhere she goes.) They were giggling, braiding hair and playing with a baby which I assume (hope) was somehow related to one of the girls. Rich and I then proceeded to ignore her for a while. It was perfectly acceptable to do so since it was light out, Jessie knew where we were sitting and we had “coffee” to drink and good food to eat. Periodically she would check back in (mostly to ask for money for important stuff like sno-cones, ice cream and, um, laser swords) and we always had a general sense of where she was. Until we didn’t.
As dusk began to turn to darkness we suddenly realized that Jessie was nowhere to be found. At first I was fairly blasé but did make a mental note of all the times I had wished she would disappear (Shut up…you never wanted your kid to disappear? Please.) but will admit to feeling a bit of anxiety creeping in. I knew that within moments it would be pitch black save for the fireworks exploding in the sky and finding her would become completely impossible. Rich and I spread out canvassing in opposite directions looking for her while trying to maintain a degree of calm. I knew she was around somewhere, but the specifics were hazy at best. I was also certain that she was blissfully unaware of the fact that the sun would disappear momentarily and that she would be officially lost.
In the midst of my search I was stopped by a woman who I have met several times over the years in various places – initially, I believe, at my Ob/Gyn’s office. Some time ago she had sent me a note reintroducing herself after having found my blog to express her appreciation for my honesty. Not knowing that I was considering becoming panicked over Jessie’s having gone missing, she wanted to tell me, in person, how much she has appreciated and enjoyed the blog and I, ever in need in a pat on the back, stopped to take in the accolades and to thank her for reading and telling me that it was meaningful to her. And then, mid-sentence, as I literally felt the sun dropping down further, I quickly exercised my brutal honesty by excusing myself and hastily explaining that I needed to find said child or this blog was going to take on a decidedly different storyline. All those years of joking that if anyone ever abducted my children they would return them and pay me were becoming (a little) less funny. I needed to find her.
Rich, growing equally, if not more, anxious was scouring the field looking for our ten-year old child…but the place was literally crawling with ten-year old children so it wasn’t easy. I eventually thought to ask one of the mothers from the group of girls that she had been hanging out with if she had seen her and she, with the concern of any mother, started to look around the area and then pointed and said, “isn’t that your daughter?” and there she was, standing with Rich who, thankfully, had just found her. While one would think that my initial reaction would be one of relief, it was, truthfully, taking pause over someone describing her as “my daughter”. That’s weird, right?
Once found, we instructed her to stay on either our little isle or that of her new-found friends for the fireworks display. Not surprisingly, she opted for the area that we were not and there she stayed, raptly taking in every boom, pop and burst of explosives as they lit up the sky, with complete disregard or appreciation for the fact that she had caused this otherwise anything-but-helicopter-mom to consider readying the search lights to find her. And, yes, I did wonder to myself if I would have grown as concerned were she still George and the answer was a resounding “yes”. No matter how low, ugly or unpleasant things become, I would never really want one of my children to be lost…whatever their definition of that may be.
p.s. There actually was a third “gone missing” which was never found; Jessie’s brand new, sportin’ sunglasses. Yes, the ones that I strongly suggested she leave in the car since the sun would eventually go down (as we know so well), but no, she didn’t listen. Good news: I had only paid $10 for them. Bad news: I paid that $10 on Monday.
p.p.s. The fireworks were, as always, fantastic.