It was a total of 5 minutes; but it was the longest 5 minutes of my life. I didn’t have the stroller with me but wanted to run into Macy’s to grab a Christmas gift. I got stuck in the kid’s clothing department checking out the summer sale items for our upcoming trip to Florida. There was an enormous gum ball machine that was occupying the kids so I poked around in the vicinity. I saw a flash of color run past me followed by a trail of giggles. “D-Man don’t be silly, come back here” I say as I start following him, slowly dragging my eyes away from the beautiful little Christmas dresses. But when they fixate on the spot I thought he ran too, he wasn’t there. “Decker!” I shout picking up the pace, telling Paigely to keep up with me. It’s eerily quiet in the department. No giggles, no babble. I know he likes to “hide” in between clothing racks but I always know where he is. This feels different, and it’s still too quiet. I’m jogging now, tracing the perimeter of the children’s section blindly asking shoppers if they’ve seen a little boy. Do I ask them to lock the store doors? Should I find the security desk? No, I can’t leave this area. He’s 2, how far could he have gone? Oh God what if someone took him. My heart is in my throat, my limbs feel numb and I want to throw up. It’s still too quiet. I’ve got Paigely by the hand and I’m running up and down the aisles shouting his name. I notice 6 women have stopped what they were doing and are looking for him too. I cut right and head into the kitchen department. I ask the women behind the counter if they’ve seen a 2 year old and describe his outfit down to his socks. They look at me with a blank expression and I don’t have time to hear the wrong answer. I sprint back to the children’s section before they can even respond. “We’ve got him!” an elderly woman using a walker shouts to me. He’s locked himself in a dressing room, dancing with his reflection in the mirror. I crawl under the door, scoop him up and can’t stop smelling him. I don’t know why this was my first reaction. I just couldn’t stop breathing him in. He sees my face and knows he did something wrong. I thank the women standing around us, tucking the need to fall apart somewhere inside of me. It was only 5 minutes. I suppress the thoughts creeping up in my head of how much worse it could have been, and has been for other parents.
I kneel down and tell him he can never run away from Mommy again. I tell him I need him to always be with me. Paigely comes over and taps me on the shoulder. “Mom?” she asks, her lips are quivering. “What, honey?” I put my arms around her. “I love my brother,” she says softly.
I guess we all learned a lesson today…