What a crazy day this has turned out to be!  

The day started out fine…just a little “off” due to William missing the bus and us having to leave 15mins earlier than usual to get him to school on the way to the younger two boys’ school..  After that, I was able to get back to the base in time to workout with my walking buddy.  Good exercise, good talk, good feelings all around.  Around lunch time I started feeling quite exhausted, so much to do on this day but all I could think of was laying my head down for a little bit.  Too many late nights and missed opportunities during the day for napping to make up for that had finally caught up to me.  I went upstairs to lay down for 20mins…and woke up 2hrs later.  Yikes.  I guess I was more tired than I thought!

I had just enough time for a bit of lunch and just a couple of the many tasks planned for the day before I had to leave to pick up the boys.  After three false starts (kept forgetting important things like wallet, ID card, etc), I finally left with just enough time to get to the school at the usual time the boys meet me.  Everything went fine until I actually got through the gate…then a series of circumstances that were out of my control led to a most terrifying moment for any mother’s heart.

Traffic slowed to a complete stop right where the road curves sharply to the left.  And we sat, and sat, and sat…then crawled forward a few feet and sat again.  I was getting a bit annoyed by this point…I was picturing my boys standing in this icy-cold downpour of rain we were having, wondering if they would remember to go to the office when I wasn’t there on time.  I knew they would wait for a bit before giving up on me and going inside.  Ugh.  I wish there was some way to bypass this traffic jam!  I called the office to let them know where I was (so close…and yet, so far away!) so that the boys wouldn’t worry while they waited for me there.  They weren’t there yet, but I expected that.  They would probably be thoroughly soaked by the time they go in.  Finally we move forward a few more yards…then get stopped again…and I watch another string of oncoming traffic pass us…and they keep coming and coming and coming…and just when I think that is the last one and we will finally get to move, another vehicle would come along..  ARGH!  Now I see what is causing the holdup…the new road construction has caused a thick cloud of steam over the road and we have to be led slowly through by a vehicle with flashing lights.  Understandable…but why are they letting twice (at least!) as many cars come out as they are letting go in?  Surely I am not the only parent waiting in this line whose children will be waiting for them!  Then I see that the buses are in this string of traffic leaving the base.  Oh great, the boys are gonna be worried about me for sure.  

When we are FINALLY allowed to proceed, there is a massive line of traffic on the other side waiting, just as we were, but the boneheads have completely blocked every side road that would take me to the school!  Oh…I am SO NOT HAPPY about all this!  I have to go all the way down to the street I would take to the Middle school before I can make my right turn and then backtrack to their school.  It takes me 20mins to get from my house to the school…a nearly 12mile drive!  It took me another 20mins just to get from that curve to the school…which are maybe only a mile apart!!!  

Okay, so I am trying to calm myself down now, as I hurry into the school to get the boys and explain why I was so late.  I get in there…and look around…and see kids but not mine.  Then I see the lady I had spoken to on the phone and she said that they had not come to the office. 
 
OH CRAP!  

Okay, this can’t be happening to me…rewind the mind…could I have missed them outside?  There was no one around in the area where I usually park to meet them.  Perhaps they are on the playground (not happy that they might have stayed out in the rain…but they are boys…it could happen…LOL).  I go to the playground…no sign of them anywhere.  Okay, this is so not good.  Panic starts to set in and combine with the anger I’d been trying to overcome and I have to really work hard to hold myself together.  There must be some reasonable explanation.  Perhaps I just missed them.  I walk through the playground and around the parking area back to where I usually meet them.  I cannot explain the horrid feeling in the pit of my stomach as I looked up and down the empty street…it’s getting dark…the rain continues to pour…and my boys are missing. 

This can’t be happening!  

*Okay, pull yourself together woman!  It’s not time to panic yet.*  The rain is cold and is starting to soak through my water resistant jacket…but the chills I am feeling have more to do with the situation than the icy rain.  After a second visit to the office and a second walkthrough of the playground (I am beginning to lose my control by this point…allowing myself a few sobs between seeing people…beginning the panic-laden pleading for God to help me find them)...I pull out my cell phone to call the office to see if they have shown up yet (when I was inside they called the teachers and sent an announcement over the intercom) and if they were still not there, I was going to try their friend’s house that lived nearby.  Perhaps they might have gone there instead.  

As I start to dial, a car pulls through the parking area and I can see a little hand waving from the backseat but I don’t recognize the car.  As they slow to a stop beside me I see my friend (the mom of the boy I was thinking they might have gone to see)… and then I see the boys in the backseat, cold and wet but safe.  

Oh Thank You Father!!   

I honestly can’t remember what I said at that point…I hope I made some sort of sense as I thanked her and got the boys out of the car.  We had to go back to the office to let them know they were found and okay.  The rest of this situation seems a blur to me…I was so relieved.  I do remember seeing Josh’s teachers from this year and last year out in the rain (one without a coat), getting soaked from the rain as they tried to help find the boys.  And the looks of relief on the faces of people in the office as we walked through the door.  I remember there being a fair number of people there but couldn’t tell you exactly who they were, I was trying so hard to just let them know the boys were safe so that we could go and I could find a moment alone to let the pent-up emotions out.  

I didn’t make it all the way back to the truck before the emotional dam burst, but, thankfully, the boys didn’t seem to notice.  I knew they felt bad that they had made the wrong decision.  It had been so long since we had talked about our backup plan if I was late picking them up that they had forgotten.  In their minds they rationalized that it would be better to go to the friend’s house so that they didn’t start a panic at school about mom being so late.  If I hadn’t been crying so hard it would have made me laugh.  : )  

The ironic part of all this is that if the traffic hadn’t blocked the side roads I usually take, I would have seen the boys walking to their friend’s house.  They had, indeed, waited a long time for me to show up…and were soaked to the skin.  We had to make a couple of unavoidable stops on the way home and are now finally home where it is safe and warm and all accounted for…the voices of the boys in the other room as they banter back and forth about a video game are comforting.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  We have much to be thankful for…very much, indeed.

A Few Moments of Terror
originally written & posted
22 November 2006
photo by Shirley: Beck Row/October06
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