Yesterday a friend and I hauled all our children up to an expensive children's store so that I could find ivory shoes for three flowergirls. (Outfitting multiple children for formal events = $.)
Interlude. Why the specialty shop and not Payless? you demand. What kind of a ritzy millionaire is MrsDarwin anyway? A few reasons:The children (all eight of 'em!) had been very well-behaved in the store, mostly due to the video playing in the back corner of the store. As we left the store all that energy burst loose. All the way to the parking lot there was racing, climbing on the play equipment scattered throughout the mall, poking at the vending machines, and tug of wars as all the children tried to prevent each other from crossing the road unsafely. My friend and I thought our struggles were over when we reached our vans, and then one of the girls said, "Where's Julia?"
- Payless is undeniably cheap -- both in terms of money and quality. It is my sister's wedding; I want the girls to look nice.
- We pass down shoes through three children here. You get what you pay for. The name brand shoes tend to last longer and hold up better.
- Said children's store was closing up at this location and was offering everything on discount, including their shoes, which are certainly very classic and elegant.
- Anyway, I looked at Payless. The style of shoe I needed was unavailable in all three sizes, and they didn't carry it any more on their website.
Every parent knows the conflicting emotions aroused by a child who has wandered off. Irritation: can't she just stay with me? Unease: wasn't she just with me? As I strode through the mall (after two failed scouting expeditions by the older boys) I ran split-second scenarios through my strategy mill. Should I linger near where we had shopped in case she came looking for us? Should I go to the office on the far side of the mall, in the opposite direction? Should I canvass all those stupid playgrounds?
How soon is too soon to panic? How late is too late?
Fortunately I didn't have to reach that stage. As I decided to head back to familiar ground, I heard running feet and sobbing behind me, and there was Julia catching up to me and choking out that she'd turned the wrong way to the parking lot, and then everyone was gone, and she couldn't find me, and she'd been looking all over... She held my hand and leaned against my side as we returned, weary but triumphant, to the parking lot where my friend watched the baby strapped in the van and the older children milling quietly.
And that night as I lay in bed, I gave thanks that I could drift off to sleep peacefully instead of laying awake with my stomach clenching in sick worry.