Once we lost Chloé. One Saturday in Ikea. It wasn't really surprising: we'd been so remiss about keeping an eye on her for so long and she'd never disappeared, it was inevitable that at some point we would lose track of each other.
I used to get lost regularly in Ikea. Only recently have I memorized the flow: sofas, tables, shelves, dining, beds, desks, wait, is it beds then desks, or desks then beds? Well, anyway I can follow the arrows. And I stay away from the shortcuts.
We were looking at something for the kitchen. Maybe she didn't see us and thought we had moved on. So she moved on. When we finally looked around to check on her, she was gone. Not standing next to us, not in the next aisle. Not in the next section. I started to panic.
Luckily a couple in the mattress section (two over from the kitchen) wondered about the little girl wandering alone and asked her her name so they could announce it over the speaker. This I heard and ran to the mattresses to find my first lost child.
Yesterday we lost Mia. But not in Ikea. In Stuttgart. At our favorite restaurant with a closed (haha but not completely!) courtyard where the kids can run around a bit and play in the sand ("Strandbar") and parents can enjoy their lunch.
I was talking to a friend and her husband while Gaetan was off with Aidyn somewhere. Chloé was climbing around on my lap and on the bench. When Gaetan came back, I realized we hadn't seen Mia for a few minutes. "Where's Mia?" I asked. "I don't know," he responded. That's the kind of parents we are. We care, but, based on personal experience, sometimes we don't know.
Now our experience has changed.
We looked in the sand.
We looked on the stairs. On the other stairs. Under the tables.
We looked in the bathrooms and inside the restaurant. I started calling her. "MIA!"
I went out of the courtyard towards the street and subway entrance. "MIA! MIA!" Around the corner. My mind filed the fact that there were no police cars, ambulances or fire trucks marking an accident involving a very small person crushed or thrown by a car.
I ran back into the courtyard. "She's gone," Gaetan said. Cool. Calm. I wanted to scream, "WHAT!? WHAT DO YOU MEAN "she's gone"?! SHE'S NOT A BUCKET THAT'S GONE MISSING FROM THE SANDBOX, SHE'S OUR DAUGHTER!!!" but instead I walked through the courtyard to the other side, the square with the antique market. Nothing.
I walked back in to the restaurant calling her name. I swear I heard her whimpering at some point but it must have been an other kid because she wasn't there.
I ran back around the other side of the building, constantly calling her name. Into the subway station. Out of the subway station. A couple asked me if we were looking for our daughter. I said yes and she was very small and wearing a purple shirt.
I went back through the courtyard to the other side. "MIA!" I cried to the antique market. "MIA!" I heard called back. Heh? Some kid joking around? "MIA!" I called again. "MIA!" I heard again.
"MIA!" I screamed and looked in the direction of the returning call. "HERE!" yelled a woman waving her arm. SHIT, I thought, she was yelling "here!" not "mia!" and please please please let that be her.
I ran over, leaping over any obstacle that got in my way and there was my mini Mia. Not crying, not even looking worried, just standing there, holding this woman's hand. I grabbed her and fell on the ground with her and kissed her and held her and told her I loved her.
And meanwhile the woman who found her was telling me how good she (Mia) was and how I did a good job and I wish I had asked her what the hell she was talking about because either Mia was good because she trusted a total stranger or I was good because I let my child wander away. I don't know. I just wanted to take her back to the rest of the family and be on our way so I did and we were.
I suppose the morals of the story are:
A courtyard isn't closed unless it's closed.
You can't talk to friends when you have almost-two-year-old kids.
If your child tries to escape the playground, they'll try to escape a Biergarten. Or they may just be trying to pet a dog. Either way, they're gone.
My children definitely have at least one and possibly twelve guardian angels. But I don't know how reliable their charity is.