Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Missing

Though I certainly have no shortage of irrational fears in regard to my children, the fear that I described yesterday actually has some basis in reality.

In 2003, on Diminutive One's first day of Kindergarten, for 45 agonizing minutes, his whereabouts were unknown.

It was the longest 45 minutes of my entire life.

The day started off well, despite my feelings of foreboding. Because of certain behavioral traits that are common to Spirited children, I had anticipated difficulty. School has never been his favorite thing. We started him in pre-school at three, because we knew it would take a good long time for him to acclimate to the classroom routine and learn how to transition from one activity to another. It's something he still struggles with.

But to my surprise, he was eager to be off. There were several reasons. There was the Thomas the Tank Engine backpack; all stiff and new and irresistibly cheery looking. There were the numerous new school supplies; brightly colored, newly sharpened, and boldly inscribed with his name.

And then there was the bus.

For some reason, that big lumbering yellow beast held some sort of strange appeal for him; probably because his brother had the privilege of riding it when he did not. Day after day he begged and pleaded to be allowed on the bus, long after it had departed.

When I told him he would be going to school with big brother this year, the very first thing out of his mouth was, "YAY! I get to ride the bus!"

He jumped up and down with glee.

I was less than thrilled by the prospect. He had turned five only one week prior to the first day of school and he was small for his age as well. He really looked closer to three than five. He would be riding the bus with kids from kindergarten to 5th grade and I didn't relish the idea of him being at the mercy of some hulking, slack-jawed fifth-grader who decided to make him a target.

But what you have to understand is that with a Spirited child, picking your battles is absolutely paramount. I knew if I chose to fight this particular battle, it would be a long, arduous and ultimately, losing one. I decided it was not the hill I wanted to die on.

After all, I would be right there to see him get on, his brother would be on the bus with him, and each afternoon he would be escorted by an aide to the door of the bus. What could go wrong?

What indeed.

When the first day of school came, he was up with the sun and could scarcely eat his breakfast. He had little patience for pictur taking but I did manage to snap a few. I wish I could show them to you. He was so damned cute. God made him extra cute so I wouldn't kill him. Seriously...ask anybody that has a Spirited kid. They are extraordinarily cute. It's a Darwin thing.

Anyway...the bus came and he got on, scarcely giving me a backward glance. I should have been happy, because it could have gone completely the other way. His first day of pre-school did not go as smoothly, and I was really anticipating a repeat of that debacle.

But my last chick had left the nest and I was a little wistful.

Until I got inside and realized that for the first time in 8 years, I was aloooooooooooooooooooneeeeeeee. It was a good day.

At 2:30 I went out to meet the bus. Pre-Pubescent One bounded off, laughing and chattering with his friends. I waited, looking for the towhead of my youngest son. It did not appear. The bus doors shushed shut and the bus started to pull away from the curb.

That was when I felt the first sinister stirrings of panic.

I banged on the doors and hollered "WAIT!!"

The bus stopped. I turned to Pre-Pubescent one and grasped him by the shoulders.

"WHERE is your BROTHER?" I asked.

He shrugged, looking bewildered.

"How could you let them leave without your BROTHER?!?"

He began to cry. All these yeas later, I still harbor a great deal of guilt over that. He was only 8 years old. It wasn't his responsibility or his fault. But in my rising panic, I projected the blame onto him.

The bus doors shushed open again and the bus driver looked at me with eyebrows raised inquiringly.

"WHERE is my youngest son? He's supposed to be on this bus. He's only five years old."

"Name?" he inquired, with what I found to be a distressing lack of concern.

"Diminutive One. Diminutive One Antagonist."

He turned laboriously in his seat and hollered,

"Diminutive One!! Diminutive One Antagonist! THIS is your stop. Your MOTHER is waiting!!"

The noise subsided a bit, and all the children looked around, but nobody responded to his call.

He shrugged and said "Sometimes the little ones fall asleep. You wanna go look?"

I climbed onto the bus and was instantly assailed by memories as odors assaulted me. Exhaust. Mildewed vinyl. Feet. Sweat. The rancid remains of a thousand sack lunches.

I scanned the aisles frantically. No tiny sleeping form curled upon a filthy seat. No golden head slumped against a dirty window. No Diminutive One.

And then the panic rose up full bore and punched me in the gut with fists of nauseating intensity. My baby was missing. That word echoed inside my head and I listened to it bouncing around with disbelief. Missing. How could that be?

I ran back to the front of the bus to confront the driver.

"You are supposed to have my son on this bus. He's only FIVE years old and he's missing!"

"Ma'am, this happens on the first day sometimes. Things are kinda crazy. He's probably on another bus. I'll radio in."

He was not unsympathetic, but it was a routine thing for him, misplaced kids. He did not share my sense of urgency.

"He's only five years old." I repeated.

I heard the accusation in my voice. I didn't care.

"Uhh, dispatch, this is xyz-678. We got a misplaced rider, name of Diminutive One Antagonist. He's five years old, blonde hair...what's he wearing?....wearing navy blue shorts, a maroon t-shirt with a soccer ball on it, carrying a Thomas the Tank Engine backpack."

"Lemme take these other kids home while they look for 'im. I'll stop on the way back out."

What? He expected me to just wait? How could I just stand there and WAIT while my son was missing?? It was inconceivable. But I had no choice. Of course, other people were wating for their children to arrive home safely. Already the bus was late. Already, they were worried.

I stood there at the bus stop and paced like a caged animal. And though I told myself not to jump to conclusions, it was simply no use. I couldn't keep the milk cartons out of my mind. And then I began to compose his physical description in my mind, trying not to succumb to hysteria.

In a moment of clarity, I realized I could be doing something while I was waiting, and I sent Pre-Pubescent One in the house for my cell phone. With shaking fingers I dialed the school.

"Everytown Elementary May I help you?"

"My son is missing. He's a student there and he didn't get off the bus today. He's only five years old."

"Who is his teacher Ma'am?"

"Miss Impossiblyyoung."

"And what is his name?"

"Diminutive One Antagonist."

"Let me buzz the classroom. Hold please."


I waited and waited and waited. It seemed like a thousand eternities. I scanned the horizon for the bus, impatient, afraid, sick with dread and worry.

"Ma'am? Miss Impossiblyyoung isn't in her classroom right now. She's probably out at car line."

"Well can you send somebody to find her? My FIVE year old child is MISSING and if he's not at the school, then I need to call the POLICE."

"Certainly. Let me take your name and number and call you back."

"No, I'll hold."

"Ma'am..."

"I'll HOLD."


Just then the bus pulled up.

"Alright, the bus is back, I'll call back in just a few minutes...Yes?" Did you find him?"

The bus driver looked as if he'd rather be anywhere else in the world than sitting in that seat, facing a distraught mother.

"I'm sorry Ma'am, but no child matching his description is on any of the busses. Did you call the school?"

My heart sank. You hear that phrase a lot, don't you? Sinking heart. My heart sank. But just then, I understood exactly what that feels like. It literally felt as if my heart had liquefied in my chest and slithered into my bowels where it sat, churning with the explosive power of a mother's darkest fear.

"Yes, I did, thank you."

"I hope you find him."


And then he was gone. I stood there, in the street, looking at the child I had left, with his tear streaked face and his jaunty first day outfit.

"What're we gonna do, Mom?" he sobbed.

"We'll find him, honey. It's just a mix-up."

"It's all my f-f-faaaaulllllllt!!!"
he wailed.

"No, baby. No it's not. I just said that because I was scared. It's NOT your fault, okay?"

I called the school back.

"Hello, you have reached Everytown Elementary school. Our office is now closed. If you know the party you are trying to reach, you may dial that extension now. If you need to speak to an Administrator, please call back between the hours of 7:30 am, and 3:30 pm."

What the FUCK?? I tried dialing 0, nothing. I tried a random extension number, hoping someone would pick up...Extension not valid. SHIT!

"THIS IS BULLSHIT!!!" I yelled, startling Pre-Pubescent One, who started to cry again. I grabbed him and hugged him hard, murmuring apologies and assurances. I wished I had someone to do that for me.

Now what? Do I call the police? No, they'll just ask if we've searched the school for him. What do I do? What do I do? Sit and wait? Screw that. We jumped in the van and headed up to the school.

When we arrived the front door was locked, but the office is located adjacent to the main entrance, so I simply banged on it until someone came. The woman who came to the door had a disapproving look on her face. She opened the door a crack and haughtily informed me that they do not admit any non-personnel after 3:30.

"I just called up here. My son is missing? My FIVE YEAR OLD son? I tried to call back but the switchboard is closed. I need to come in RIGHT NOW to look for him. Otherwise, I have no recourse but to call the police."

Her attitude changed immediately, whether because of my threat or out of genuine concern, I didn't know, didn't care.

"Oh yes! Of course! Come in. We haven't been able to locate Miss Impossiblyyoung, yet. She had carline duty, so she's supposed to have a walkie talkie, but she's not responding to our calls. We were just about to page her over the PA system, but I'll try her classroom one more time."

She went to the console and picked up the mike.

"Miss Impossiblyyoung?"

There was a very pregnant pause. I didn't realize it at the time, but I was holding my breath.

Finally, a reply.

"Yes?"

"Do you by any chance have Diminutive One Antagonist with you?"

"Oh, yes! I do! I was just about to call his mother to let her know I made a mistake and didn't put him on the bus."


I felt my knees go weak, and my vision blurred. I would have fainted, I think, if it hadn't been for Pre-Pubescent One standing there, holding my hand. I couldn't let him see me fall apart. I began to breathe again, and slowly the roiling blackness faded away.

"Thank you. I'll go get him."

When we got to the classroom, he was seated at a low table, coloring contentedly. I resisted the urge to swoop down upon him and crush him to my breast. He had no idea he had been missing. There was no point in scaring him.

"Hi Mommy! You forgot to come get me!"

Suddenly, the fear was replaced by a white hot anger. I did NOT forget. WOULD not forget. I had filled out all the transportation forms meticulously. I had listed everything just as it was supposed to be, checking and double checking bus and route numbers. He was even wearing a bus shaped sticker that said, "Today I am a BUS rider."

Miss Impossiblyyoung looked up from her desk and instantly turned a deep scarlet. She rose and hurried over to me. Her words came out in a rush.

"Oh Mrs. Antagonist, I am SO sorry...I don't know how it happened but somehow he got in the car rider line and I couldn't leave all those kids, and I couldn't get my walkie talkie to work and by the time I got all the car riders loaded the busses were all gone and I know you must have been so worried...I was looking for his contact information when the office buzzed me. I really am so, so, so, sorry!!!"

I was so angry with her. I wanted to shake her, shout at her, demand to know if she had any idea how TERRIFIED I had been. But her face was so stricken...she obviously was very sorry, and she looked as if she might have been about to cry herself.

So instead I said,

"I think I'm going to throw up."

I put my head between my knees and took some slow deep breaths. Slowly, very slowly, my heart stopped racing, the blood stopped roaring in my ears, my stomach stopped heaving, and the shaking in my limbs subsided.

He was safe. He was safe. Safe.

"Well..." she said timidly, "I know it's not much consolation, but we've actually had some time to get to know one another, and I think that's a good thing."

I took another couple of deep breaths, considering. And I decided that berating her would serve no good purpose. It had been a harrowing afternoon for both of us.

"I suppose there is a bright side then, isn't there? If there can be a bright side to nearly losing your mind with fear, that is. No harm done."

She got the point. And she was obviously relieved that I wasn't going to demand her head on a platter.

I collected my child and his cheerfully grinning backpack and we left. I couldn't stop looking at him in the rearview mirror as we drove home. He chatted with his brother, who told him with gleeful horror, that he had been the center of quite a lot of fuss.

Pre-Pubescent One leaned over and whispered "Mom said 'bullshit' really loud. She yelled at the bus driver. She yelled at me too."

Diminutive One was terribly nonplussed by the whole thing. And the next day, he got on the bus as if there was never any question about the matter.

And I let him.

To this day I don't know how I found the courage to let the bus pull away from the curb with my children inside. And I don't think I took an easy breath the entire day.

As I waited for him to get off the bus, I almost couldn't bear it. Then suddenly his sun kissed little head appeared and all was well.

He said simply "I'm fine, Mommy."

And he was. And that was that.

But five years later, those forty five minutes still have the power to compel me.

A navy blue newsboy cap,
a gray fleece jacket,
dark blue baggy jeans,
...

33 Comments:

  • At 5:23 PM, Anonymous Amy Nathan said…

    I didn't breathe --- you just about killed me here. And that's a good thing. He was/is safe and your writing, my dear, is so much much more than sassy.

    xo

     
  • At 5:37 PM, Blogger Life As I Know It said…

    Oh, man, what a story. I'm glad it all turned out ok. How scary!

     
  • At 5:40 PM, Blogger flutter said…

    god I was gritting my teeth the whole time!

     
  • At 5:43 PM, Blogger jen said…

    oh good lord. i would have lost my mind. mama. oy.

     
  • At 5:53 PM, Blogger sltbee69 said…

    My hearting was beating so fast the whole time I was reading that. What a nightmare you went through during that 45 minutes. I'm not so sure I would have remained that calm.

     
  • At 6:17 PM, Anonymous Maddy said…

    I had a similar experience myself a few years back, it can still stop my heart beating just by thinking about it.
    Best wishes

     
  • At 7:19 PM, Blogger Antique Mommy said…

    This post and the previous one makes my heart stop. I can't even let my mind go there.

     
  • At 7:57 PM, Anonymous tela said…

    I think I just took my first breath since starting that post. I think the only thing that kept me reading, and not bailing in horror, was that I knew that DO is safe.

     
  • At 8:58 PM, Blogger Mrs. Chicky said…

    Scary. And even though I know it turned out fine you had me on pins and needles.

     
  • At 9:24 PM, Anonymous TEOM said…

    "All these yeas later, I still harbor a great deal of guilt over that. He was only 8 years old. It wasn't his responsibility or his fault. But in my rising panic, I projected the blame onto him."

    I SO understand this - all of it. Even though it is long in the past now, you might still want to revisit it with him again. As they grow, they are able to understand and take in the truth of experiences like that that they can't at the time. And at worst, there is nothing a thirteen-year-old boy likes to be reminded of more than the moments his Mom has screwed up and copped to it.

    Yeah, a heart really CAN sink...

     
  • At 9:29 PM, Blogger Mamma said…

    And that's the challenge of motherhood isn't it...getting up the courage to put them back on the bus.

    I can only imagine how terrified you were.

     
  • At 10:19 PM, Blogger WI Mommy said…

    OMG - this is not making it any easier on me. Hmmmm - homeschooled children always win those spelling bees, don't they?

     
  • At 10:35 PM, Blogger Fairly Odd Mother said…

    Wow, now that is a story to tell to your grandchildren! Scary!!!

    And WI Mommy: Sorry, but my daughter can't spell her way out of a plastic bag. Or is that a plastik bag?

     
  • At 1:31 AM, Blogger Unmana said…

    What a touching story! I found myself holding back tears. I hope your children are always fine.

     
  • At 9:09 AM, Blogger Avalon said…

    OMG. That story terrified me at my core. I don't know that I could have had the same self restraint.

     
  • At 9:50 AM, Anonymous Nancy said…

    Whoa. My heart was about to fly out of my body with this story.

     
  • At 11:53 AM, OpenID wheelsonthebus said…

    Holy crap. I would have lost my mind.

    Do you think the woman answering the phone at the school could have handled things a little better?

     
  • At 12:37 PM, Blogger Mary Alice said…

    I know that feeling - even when they are older. My little Red was missing for 45 minutes at night in a blinding snowstorm when she took a wrong path home from her friends and got lost in the eight grade. I know that feeling of wanting to throw up when it is all over. It is the worst not knowing where your child is, if they are hurt, if someone has them. I wouldn't wish that feeling on my worst enemy.

     
  • At 1:54 PM, Blogger Trenches of Mommyhood said…

    Oh.my.heart.

    This morning on the local news, they were reporting that a 5-year old kindergarten boy choked while riding his bus home and DIED.

    Anyone have a plastic bubble I can wrap my children in?

     
  • At 2:23 PM, Blogger Tracey said…

    Oh honey. I know exactly that feeling. Mine was missing for a spell and I nearly threw up as well. Wish I could give you a hug...

     
  • At 3:42 PM, Blogger bubandpie said…

    Have I mentioned that we've just decided to build a house in an area that means Bub will be riding the bus to school? Curse you, Blog Antagonist - you're killing me here!

     
  • At 9:18 PM, Blogger kevin said…

    It was wrong of the teacher not to relay his whereabouts to the front office as soon as she realized he wasn't where he was supposed to be. At the very least, she could have grabbed a fifth grader to go deliver a note. At the same time, there is no way in hell I could have ever been a kindergarten teacher. Or a bus driver for that matter. Talk about driving one to drink!

     
  • At 9:20 PM, Anonymous Veronica Mitchell said…

    Glad all turned out well.

    Things really have changed, haven't they? When I was six, I sometimes walked home from the bus stop to an empty house and made myself a sandwich. I would never, never let my kids do that.

     
  • At 9:45 PM, Blogger Miss Peg said…

    Panic...every mother has felt it. I literally had tears streaming down my face as I read this.

     
  • At 1:02 AM, Blogger This.Is.Me.Maria said…

    OMG. I am so glad your son is okay and I am so sorry you experienced this.

    I have known that fear that makes you feel like you are going to pass out, throw up, kill someone and the world is spinning and getting blurry all at the same time and then afterwards all you can do is sob uncontrollably.

    After my son's first experience riding the bus (end of the year summer school) I got him a Firefly cell phone. There were a couple other incidents that year and the bus incident was the last straw.
    So now when my daughter goes to Kindergarten this fall, she too will be armed with a kiddie cell phone.

    I hope you NEVER have the kind of experience again.

     
  • At 11:45 AM, Blogger gingajoy said…

    My heart's racing from reading this, B.A. my god... I lost my oldest for 3 minutes in JC Penney's once, and it was a lifetime. 45 minutes would be unbearable. It's our greatest fear isn't it? Maybe the only thing that unites mothers of all backgrounds, that universal and primal fear.

    Oy... I am off home now to grab my sons again.

     
  • At 2:36 PM, Blogger the only daughter said…

    How lucky I feel that my children didn't ride a school bus. There were other things, to be sure, to fear, but thankfully, not that.

    Quite the tale, told extremely well.

     
  • At 12:47 PM, Blogger Jaelithe said…

    Oh, a similar thing happened to me, too, when I was in kindergarten! It was actually my second first day at kindergarten, because I had switched schools. I didn't know my address because we had just moved, and rather than LOOK UP my address, a teacher-- who wasn't even my teacher-- just guessed, and put me on the wrong bus.

    I forget how things got sorted out, that day, but I DO remember that the school blamed ME, claiming I'd done it deliberately, to get out of any blame themselves, and that for weeks thereafter I was not allowed to board a bus without a fifth-grade escort. I was furious with the school about that because I was one of those kids with an overdeveloped sense of justice.

    I'm actually kind of glad it happened, though, because my fifth-grade escort was the first person I'd ever met who was missing a limb (she had only one arm), and spending time with her every day taught me not to stare at kids with disabilities.

     
  • At 1:58 PM, Blogger Amy Y said…

    Oh, Mama. That is my worst nightmare. You are such a strong person for not smacking the shit out of that teacher! Wow.

    I lost Tyler one time. He wasn't missing ~ I left him. At the zoo. For about 60 seconds. I thought he was in my stroller but I was with a group of girlfriends and one of their kids was in my stroller so I couldn't tell I was missing 30 lbs. Once I realized he wasn't with me, I ran (I have never run so fast in my life!) back to where I'd left him and some sweet Mama had found him and was waiting with him.
    I will never forgive myself for that.
    At least you have that... knowing it wasn't your fault. Glad he was Ok (and you and PPO too!).
    Wow.

     
  • At 7:36 PM, Blogger Shinyribs said…

    With all due respect, I question why one would not have picked the child up on the first day of school and/or gone to school and made sure the child knew what to do? You were asking for it here. Sorry you had to deal with every parents worst nightmare, though. You are stronger for it?

     
  • At 6:52 PM, Blogger Jenny said…

    Oh wow. I would have shit myself. Seriously.

     
  • At 12:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This was an amazingly written story! I was tense the entire time I was reading it. My 2 year old was missing for about 15 min. this past summer, and I thought I was dying! He had taken ahold of the dog's collar, and she had led him up the road toward the neighbor's house (we live in the country..so by neighbor, I mean 1/4 a MILE down the road) I was screaming, crying, and freaking out.

     
  • At 8:36 AM, Blogger Michelle said…

    OK, so the writer of this blog is a good writer, but the story itself is really not that dramatic if one steps back from it a bit. Sometimes we need to walk a mile in someone else's shoes. A new, young teacher was trying to do her best with the resources she had. Bus drivers were trying to doing what they could with the resources they had. The person answering the phone and answering the door all were doing what they could with what they had. We need to take into perspective the whole situation; and no, I am not a teacher, and yes, I am a mother.

     

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