Last summer on the way home from taking my youngest son to the doctor, I found a child. No, Sleepy Jean, don’t bother to try and rub your eyes so that sentence so that it makes more sense to you. I did say that I found a kid (not, I should also clear up, my own).
There I was, minding my own beeswax when I decided to stop on the way home for a cup of coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts so that I might not sleep the afternoon away. Only because of this sudden, burning desire did I drive the route that I did, and seriously Internet? That was Providence if I’ve ever seen it.
Driving along, there I was, listening to Alex babble in the backseat when at the corner of a really busy intersection, a child of probably between 2 and 3 was darting around. At first, it didn’t register with me as Something Odd until I thought about it. What kind of parent would let a kid be ALONE at that corner? Not, I realized, one that was probably watching their kid.
Frantically, I pulled my car over and jumped out, Alex squawking indignantly “MOMMY” as I leapt out to the child. Thankfully, another lady had ALSO stopped and together we were able to get the child’s attention. She was a well-dressed, well-groomed obviously loved little one, her hair plaited neatly (especially for 10:30 in the AM, I thought blearily), but all alone.
The lady who I was corralling this (honestly) well-mannered child had better Spanish skills than I do, considering I didn’t really want to ask the kid if she wanted more bread, cheese or water. Nor did I think telling her that she had poquito huevos (small testicles) was either appropriate or a good idea. And short of counting to six (also pointless), I speak ridiculously crappy Spanish.
But the lady convinced the girl to come sit on the sidewalk and play with my son, who I’d retrieved from the car immediately once I realized that this really was a lost kid. In that area of town, it’s nearly all cheap, crappy apartments shared by many (assumably) illegal immigrants, so it’s not like going door to door would have gotten us far. Besides, how the hell would we KNOW if the person who claimed her was her actual guardian? She was too young to be anything other than trusting of complete strangers.
We instead decided to call the police–my initial urge was to take her to my house BEFORE we called the police, but that seemed unwise–and in a couple of minutes, a squad car rolled by, swooped up the girl, and after getting a brief statement from each of us (including, oddly, Alex’s full name and birthday), pulled away.
I felt really bad about this for awhile because I assumed that her parents were maybe illegal and as such, wouldn’t go to the police and risk deportation. They were probably pacing frantically worrying and wringing their hands, having (literally) lost their daughter. I couldn’t imagine their pain. It was obvious that the kid had just wandered off, not like she’d been abandoned.
My heart was heavy for a long while afterward.
Many months later, I was heavily pregnant (I could be pregnant for 4 minutes and I would be heavily pregnant, I feel I should add) with Amelia and playing a game with Alex. The point of the game, according to Alex to charge at my belly and then I would swoop him upside down into the air. Then, I would give him a fake back-breaker and tickle him until he screamed with glee.
The phone rang. Expecting a call from The Daver, I picked it up and checked the caller ID to make sure it wasn’t someone calling to petition my vote for something or another. Or maybe the people who always call for my opinion on stuff (no. SERIOUSLY. ME! Dub-ya, Tee, Eff?). But no, the caller ID said clearly “Dept of Children and Family Services.”
My heart took a nosedive and ended up somewhere in my colon. Had someone reported me to DCFS?
I mean, certainly I’m not always the model parent: sometimes my patience runs out and I speak more sharply than I want to. Sometimes dealing with the issues that Ben fixates on gets really tiresome. There are days where I wish I could have someone else watch my children for me so that I could dick around the house. Some days, I’d like to crawl back into bed and sleep the day away. Certainly, like any parent, I’ve made mistakes.
But I’m a good mother. I am. I know that I am. While I might doubt other things about myself (like my ability to get back into size 2 pants. Shut up! Also, no leakage OR seepage yet! Hooray!), I can’t possible cop to being a bad parent.
Seeing that number, though, I almost threw up. What could they possibly want with me?
I answered, my voice full of trepidation, fear radiating off me in waves, and began to speak with someone who was calling me (apparently) from a wind tunnel. I could barely hear this person–I think it was a woman but I honestly couldn’t tell you–but it was quickly determined that the call was not about me. Rather, it was about the child I’d found.
Of course, this person wasn’t able to tell me anything about the case, instead asking me question after ridiculous question about the timeline of the day that I found the child. Months before.
Now, because I don’t work out of the house, I rarely look at a calendar, and recalling precisely what the time on my dashboard clock read when I found a child because I was, oh, I don’t know, too busy trying to get the child away from the sea of cars whizzing past. She/He seemed shocked that I couldn’t remember all the details, like the name of the lady who’d stopped and assisted me with the child, but this was so far after the fact that my sieve-ish memory had just dropped that information.
I hung up the phone with her (let’s hope that it wasn’t ON her) and breathed an unsettled sigh or relief, my heart still thumping heavily in my chest. Shocked beyond anything by the whole situation.
I’ll probably never know what happened to that poor child (my guess is that she’s now in foster care). But stuff like this makes me hug my children a bit tighter every time I can wrap my meaty arms around them.
What is the weirdest thing YOU’VE found by the side of the road?
NOM, NOM, NOM.