The other day I met up with my friend, The Picture Lady at the store. I almost never see The Picture Lady, except at the store. It was nice to see her and catch up on all the doings of her fabulous family. When I looked up from talking to her I realized something. Baby Snarky was missing. I wasn’t too worried because Baby Snarky isn’t really a baby anymore. He’s eight. He is probably old enough to walk through a store by himself. He is plenty old enough to be suspicious of strangers asking for favors.
My heart still started to pound.
“What’s wrong?” asked The Picture Lady.
“I can’t find Baby Snarky.” I said “I’m sure he’s around here somewhere.”
“I’ll stay with you.” said The Picture Lady.
“No, it’s fine. He can’t be too far away.” I said, trying to slow my heart down.
“I’ll stay with you.” she said, the tone in her voice made it clear that there was to be no more arguing.
I moved fast. I checked the soda machine first because he had been talking about using his quarters to buy an orange soda. No Baby Snarky. I checked the annoying toy section because he’s into that kind of stuff. No Baby Snarky. I checked the car. No Baby Snarky.
Finally, just as I was about to call for a Code Adam, I saw him. He had gone around to the other side of the store because the soda machine on the other side of the store sold root beer and he wanted to buy me a root beer with his quarters because “I thought you might be kid of mad that I lost you.”
He got a good talking to.
And also an orange soda.
The experience, while in reality pretty mundane, reminded me of two far more interesting stories. The first one is from my childhood.
When I was two or three my mother took me to a department store so she could do some shopping. There are two things that you should know in this story. The first is that we lived in Milwaukee. It’s a big city. The second is that it was the late 70’s. At that time people still didn’t really talk about abduction or predators or human trafficking. Also, at this time it was not unusual to see a two or three year old outside playing unsupervised. It was the 70’s. People lived dangerously.
As my mother was shopping she suddenly noticed something. Her little Snarky was missing. Unlike me, my mother quickly had every employee in the store looking for her little Snarky. She wanted the store shut down. She wanted the manager to call the FBI.
“Lady, your toddler just wandered off. There’s no need to call the FBI.” the manager said.
“You call the FBI now!” my mother insisted “You call them and you ask for Special Agent Snarky!”
The other important piece of information in this story is that my father worked for the FBI. He dealt with some pretty nasty people and there was a very real possibility that one of these people would come after him by hurting his family. When I was older I was prepared for such an event like no other child of the seventies. I was given advice like this.
If someone tries to take you, you make as much noise as you possibly can. You scream things like “Fire!” “This is not my Father!” “I need the police now!”. You kick and bite and anything else you can do to get away. If they have a gun or a knife or any other weapon you still get away because if they are willing to kill you at the first location, they will definitely kill you at the second location, and the things that happen between the first location and the second location will be things that will make you wish they had killed you at the first location. If they do manage to drag you off, you touch everything in sight the entire time. Leave as many fingerprints as you can anywhere you are, including cars. Kick off your shoes, pull out your barrettes and leave any kind of trail that you can so that we can find you as soon as possible.
I was not older at this point, though. I was very very small.
“Did you check your car?” a cashier asked
“No I did not check my car!” my mother exclaimed. “It’s twenty below zero! She’s two! The parking lot is huge and filled with cars! Why would she go out to the car?!”
“Okay lady, just check your car and then we’ll call the FBI.” the manager said.
My mother checked the car. There I was, buckled into the back seat with a three foot tall stuffed pony that I had stolen from the store.
I was not allowed to keep the pony. My parents did not reward naughtiness and stealing a pony was naughty. So is giving your mother a heart attack.
The second story is about ten years old.
Ten years ago I took my children to the grocery store. It was a pretty boring trip. We live in a small town where nothing ever happens. Spitting Image, who was three at the time, thought she would liven things up with a little game. When we were about half way down the isle, she would giggle and run to the end of the isle. She would go just around the corner of the end cap and wait. Then, when I got to the end of the isle, she would jump out and “scare” me. I would pretend to be scared.
After three or four rounds of this game I got to the end of the isle and…no Spitting Image. She wasn’t in the next isle, or the one after that. Confused, because we live in a small town where nothing ever happens, I went to the main isle to find some help. That’s when I saw her. She was standing just inside the main exit with a 40ish woman who had long, dark frizzy hair.
“SPITTING IMAGE!” I said a little more sharply than I intended.
She quickly turned, saw me, smiled, and came running. The mysterious woman hurried out the door.
“Mommy!” Spitting image said breathlessly. “You outside?”
“No. I was right here. Don’t run away like that! You scared me!”
“No, Mommy outside!” she insisted.
I kind of ignored what she was saying and finished shopping. It wasn’t until I got home and thought about it that I made a chilling revelation. She thought I was outside. There was no reason for her to think that, unless someone told her that. Also, if I was helping someone’s lost child, I wouldn’t run away when the parent was found without talking to the parent for at least a second.
My child was almost taken.
From a very small town.
Where nothing ever happens.
I don’t think my children are any more special than any of the children that go missing every day. I don’t think God was watching out for them any more than He watches out for all of the children that go missing. I am very thankful that I happened to look at just the right place in just the nick of time. I also have a feeling that many abductions are foiled in much the same way without the parent or child ever realizing what is going on.
I am also thankful for The Picture Lady, who was willing to stick around in a situation that could have ended much differently. Much messier. In a small town. Where nothing ever happens.
Show The Picture Lady some love and check her out at https://www.facebook.com/stillglory/
She really sees beautiful things!