Sunday, 27 March 2011

Another Story In Which I Misplace a Child

This is one of Hannah's favorite stories to retell...probably because it's proof positive that her mother is barking mad.

While living in England, we lived across the street from the Martin family, a good, proper, speaks-the-Queen's-English lot. I was in the midst of making a cake and realized that I was short two eggs. I asked Hannah to skip over to their house to borrow the necessary eggs. My British neighbor had gotten quite used to my culinary shortages and wouldn't blink at the cheeky request. I'm not sure the English ever ask neighbors for a cup of sugar; I'm not sure they ever run out of anything in their organized lives. And if they do, they don't bother their neighbors about it. But as a crass American, I just boldly asked without shame.

Anyhow, I gave Hannah an empty egg crate so she wouldn't drop the eggs on her short trip back. She looked at me quizzically and asked, "Are you sure?" I was in a hurry to get the cake baked and feeling a bit impatient, I answered that I was, in fact, sure. She gave me another chance and said, "Do you think I might get lost?" She played with Louise Martin every other day, and had NEVER gotten lost crossing the cul-de-sac, so I was pretty confident she could do it now. In broad day light. Gritting my teeth, I assured her she would not get lost. Convinced, she took the egg carton and headed out the door.

I stood watching from the kitchen window, waiting for her to cross the street and knock on the neighbor's door. Hmm. She must have stopped to look at a bug or something, because she didn't cross. I could still hear the silvery chimes that hung from the front door ringing and yet I felt a dread. I walked to the door and looked out, hoping to see her and knowing somehow that I wouldn't. She was gone. She had never crossed the street, she just vanished.

I ran down the street bare-footed, calling her name. As a foreigner, the neighbors gave me a lot of latitude when they saw me acting crazy. As I reached the corner, there was no sign of her, so I returned home for shoes and Logan. I shoved him in the car and started driving, wondering where to look first. Could she have misunderstood me and thought she needed to go to the UK store around the corner (it's like a 7-11)? Surely she wouldn't walk all the way to the news agent store half a mile away, would she? I quickly drove around the corner to the UK store and asked the clerk if a little girl had come in wearing an orange track suit? She gave me a strange look and shook her head.

Back into the car, I turned around and cruised down the road trying to figure out how to park near the news agents to pop in and have a look for my six-year-old daughter. Of course, there's NEVER any parking in front of that store, so I needed to turn around and park at the Co-op grocery store across the street, another place I'd have to search. Just as I'm making my way back from a very complicated U turn, I see my blithe little girl cross High Street (in America, we'd call it Main Street), skipping along with her egg carton.

Seriously?! I was so angry at her! Where in the WORLD had she gone? From the looks of it, she had gone to TINA's house which required her to walk half a mile down a busy street, cross an even busier street and then retrace her steps homeward. I had just asked her to go to KARI's house, maybe 40 steps round trip!!

Lucky for us both, I couldn't get my hands on her because as a motorist, we're not to stop the car in the middle of a busy intersection so we can throttle a naughty child...foreign countries always have their own quirkish rules. As I followed her, I reran the conversation we had had in the kitchen. All of a sudden, the crazy questions she had asked didn't seem so crazy. Is it possible I had said, "Go ask Tina for 2 eggs" when I had meant "Kari"? Sometimes, when talking to the real Tina, if I wanted to suggest we ask Kari to join us, I would invariably say, "Let's ask Tina." When corrected, I'd amend my statement by saying, "The OTHER Tina!"

Thankfully, I'd figured this out by the time I was able to pull up beside my happy daughter, who was bursting with importance and pride at her magnificent journey. I asked her if she wanted to hop in and ride the rest of the way home. It was such a lovely, sunshiny day, she declined and trotted the rest of the way home with me driving ahead for a bit, pulling to the curb and waiting for her to catch up.

I called the real Tina when I got home and explained the whole story. She was wondering why I sent Hannah over because she had already told me in an earlier conversation that she only had two eggs left so was surprised that I send my daughter over to claim them. She had willingly handed them over, too! Luckily, Tina eventually moved around the corner from us, so scooting over to either Tina's homes for a needed item was no longer a hair-raising journey.


  1. Mom- totally not your fault! You did really great! And, I don't think you are as crazy as you think you are

  2. Bless Tina for giving you her last 2 eggs. And bless her again for moving closer so that this drama wouldn't happen again...