Monday, November 3, 2008

Halloween 911

I wanted to start this post with a good photo of Henry in his terrifying Herald costume. He ended up having a nice run of it, and loved the whole aspect of going to stranger's houses and begging for candy. He and his friends, trailed by Dad, only stayed out about an hour, but managed to get a lot of loot.

There is no picture of George and there is a reason for that. I thought that we would get some good photos of him after his first real mega-Halloween trick-or-treating - - giant candy bag and all. Turns out that when the cops end up bringing your son home, you don't remember to take photos.

Yup, that's cops with a c-o-p-s. It was a hell of night.

The evening started out on a high note. We went over to some neighbors for dinner around 5:30. They own the best local Indian restaurant. It was a wonderful. The kids ate mac/cheese and we had delicious food and good wine. We were joined by three or four other families from the school that the boys are now attending.

The kids started whining to go out at around 6:30, so the fourth graders all got ready and headed out with George the Elder as their chaperon. The 6th graders - -at the ripe age of 12 - -decided to go alone. There were three of them. One of them, Peter, took his cell phone and off they went. We were very comfortable with this, as they were together. It is a nice quiet neighborhood and we felt confident that this was something they could do. Once they were off, I rushed back up the hill to open our door to little beggars.

Around 7:00 I saw Georgie and his friends, as they stopped by our house for treats. Around 7:45 both groups returned to our house, thirsty and tired, with bags of candy. They all trooped in past me as I continued to dole out candy to the horde of trick-or-treaters in front of me. I didn't bother to count them. I just assumed that they were all there.

Around 8:00, Peter and Christian (the other 6th grader) said that they wanted to go back out and get some more candy. I asked why George didn't want to go. They then said they didn't know where George was. What???? Turns out that they had lost him around 7:30! In their words, "We turned around to say something to him and he wasn't there." Whaddya mean he just wasn't there? Did you look for him? Yes, we looked up and down the street twice. He didn't say anything to you like he was going somewhere? Nope. He just disappeared. Yep. Just like that - we entered the twilight zone of crazed parents with a missing kid.

So, off went George the Elder to scan the hood. 20 minutes later, still no George. He is joined in the search by 4 other parents. 20 minutes later still no George. Panic had firmly settled in. This is NOT like George. He doesn't wander. He doesn't leave his friends. He doesn't, he doesn't, he doesn't. Please, please, please don't let anything happen to him.

Finally at 8:50, two cars take off to scan the neighborhood. We come up empty. I confer with George - - we called 911. It was surreal. Yes, my child is missing. What is he wearing? How tall is he? Is is apt to be a run-away? Some one is coming right over.

The police car arrived within about 5 minutes and I am doing the unthinkable of rummaging through my wallet for his photo. It felt oddly like an installment of CSI or something I wish I wasn't watching. 15 minutes later we get the call - - they've found him and he's on his way home. Two plains clothes guys spotted him and picked him up. The good news is that since they were plains clothes it took a lot of badge showing to the other parents on the street before they let Georgie in the car with them. That was nice to know.

In the end, we forgot to factor in one very important thing. The whole "I can go to all the houses I want and get more and more candy!" part of Halloween. We forgot that because of that he didn't care about being with his friends. He didn't even know we were looking for him. He was just out enjoying his first uber-Halloween with unlimited candy from unlimited houses.

We were sure he had been nabbed off the street. His two friends were sure that they were going to have to live with the knowledge that they had "lost" their friend while trick-or-treating. Our friends were as worried as we were (which was helpful later on when I was second guessing whether or not we panicked too soon). Georgie, on the other hand, was blissfully going from house to house getting more candy than he had seen in a lifetime.

And in the end, to all those parents who have ever lost their children, even for an minute or an hour - - what was the time lag between wanting to just hold them so close and so tight for as long as you can, breathing them in as if you haven't loved anything so much in any single moment - - and - - wanting to shake them silly for scaring you so horribly when they should have known better??

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