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Wednesday, 10 June 2009

where's my small ... boy?

F10 went missing last night. The classic props were all there – the open gate onto the back … the chain and padlock dangling from the hasp … a cricket bat tossed aside suggesting the stepping stone in the journey from garden to field to off, off and beyond.
The front gate was open too. This was wrong. It is always to be kept shut to keep the ghastly dog in, although it’s time I questioned the wisdom of this. Off you go love, the big road’s that way. Most poignant of all were a pair of scruffy little socks left scattered on the grass, clues to his final moments.

Which way to go? With panic building, I scanned the field, then faux-sauntered out of the front. The saunter was necessary to convince me that all was still normal. I strolled down to the right. And then back and to the left. A trot became a bit of a sprint (all terms are relative).
Given the recent shenanigans, various endings were playing out in my head. Had I given him a decent last half hour, a decent life being too much to claim. Yes, I told myself, we’d had a nice walk with the dog. We’d taken a cricket bat (he has rounders today, I thought that some practise might help), I had been throwing it at him, he’d been thwacking it. We had played catch. I had been kind and encouraging. I had said things like “oh, good throw” and “my fault, too high.” Angels were busy in heaven with my brownie points. Even when we had to tussle with the dog to let slip half a shagged-out blackbird it had all been quite pleasant. Relative terms, remember.

Then we'd returned home. While he stayed outside to play at bowling, I had felt I deserved a glass of wine. Some might like to pause here to ponder, with an admiring moue, on the late hour, 8.30, of the first glass of the day. We can forget the small but necessary gin at 7, too tiny to mention.
And here the reflections, all taking place in seconds, morphed into the imminent police investigation. If the road continued not to proffer up my son, I’d have to be on the blower, 999. The sirens, the heavy shut of the door, the swagger of the policeman hoicking up his trews, the belt loaded with cuffs and phones.
“So, Milla, you were drinking wine and you checked on your child .. when?”
“5 to 9,” I mumble in my mind.
The sarcasm is heavy. “A whole 25 minutes elapses, how extremely good of you, Milla, to remember him at all. Let me top up your glass.”
The sergeant and the constable exchange glances, sigh heavily. Lips are pursed. The At Risk register will be consulted, and amended.

My sprint intensified, which means that speed would possibly be detectable by an alert passer-by, an Old seized by a need to vacuum the car.
Up ahead a blur of blue. Some tuneless whistling reaches me. F10 strolling back.
“Oh, hi, mum,” he burbled huskily.
I scooped him to me.
“Where were you!?!” I said, my face buried in his ledge wig.
“Oh, you know, I was looking for my barbecue man.”

His barbecue man is, what? 3cm tall. He is from a Lego barbecue kit (featuring lights, a parasol and a leg of chicken, all eminently losable, naturally) and occupies a domain of joy shared with a ring, a rabbit …. He has developed a huge back-story and doles out chicken to all and sundry with impressive regularity. We’re all rather sick of it to be honest. Mmmm, more chicken. Yum. It had fallen out, he assumed, while off on the walk so he had gone back, in the gathering dusk, to search through long grass in three fields for his Lego man.

His childhood has been littered with such hunts. “Where’s my pirate’s foot … where’s my small mazagine” being perennial and plaintive cries from his early years. When a pirate’s foot belongs to a Playmobil man and the small mazagine is the instructions to the Playmobil man, no, we never knew where they were, but we measured out our hours in looking for them. The sticky possession of important items vital to his being. Sometimes the memory of them would echo in my head, lulling me to sleep. It’s become a catch phrase for anything misplaced nowadays.
“You know not to go anywhere without telling us!” I said.
“But my man …!”
Some things transcend rules.

Lego man was found among the socks. Thrilled he was. He squeaked. Then put it down. “And where’s the barbecue?” he said, heading towards the gate.
Give me strength.


Welsh Girl said...

Oh the horrible fear that you try to downplay at these moments. The instant scenarios that get played out in your head and heart. The casual 'I'm not worried' stroll as your mind races forward to the worst case scenario and starts playing it on repeat. I don't even have children and I can empathise.

Glad the Ledge is safe and sound and as insouciant as ever....

Edward said...

Luckily I was engaged on other activities not entirely unassociated with the pre-prandial small gin to notice the lack of a small boy. Of course I noticed the lack - there was no shouting, no whistling, and I had failed to be tickled for about half an hour. I simply assumed he was in the garden talking to the dandelions and bowling at the wall. I must confess that I too am baffled by his love of the Lego Barbecue set, but then so much of him is deeply baffling it seems invidious to single out this for particular scrutiny.

By the way, Milla, are Barbecue and Man now reunited?

Milla said...

barbecue has been found. Man is missing. Again. Not good for my health, any of this. When is it gin time?

Angel Bluestocking said...

There can be no worse feeling in the world for any parent.

Barbecue Man indeed.

Frances said...

Milla, glad this tale had a happy ending, because I was truly feeling your rapid increase of major concern. I had to remind myself that at least it might still have been somewhat light outdoors where you all live.

Hoping that F10 clings closer to home this evening.


Carol and Chris said...

My heart plummeted when I started reading this post...I'm so glad it had a happy ending (well, minus the barbecue).

I'm going to stick with just having cats....I don't think I'm cut out for kids!!

C x

Exmoorjane said...

Oh Milla, that awful heartstopping moment. How on earth are mothers supposed to cope with the stress of it all? My worst when sitting drinking something or other by the river - boys merrily playing. Then realised with horror that mine wasn't with them...
'Oh he's gone up the river' - vague pointings. yelling produced nothing. Fear of weir. Finally, with vocal chords worn out and adrenaline at danger level, small voice 'why are you yelling?'
Need a gin just thinking about it....

Potty Mummy said...

OH god. You mean that those sorts of conversations continue past the age of 5????

Coding Mamma (Tasha) said...

That was very frightening. Glad he's fine.

Milla said...

Thank you, WG. Insouciant is so the word.

Barbecue man is due a roasting, BSA, ho ho.

Yes, F, light. I'm a bad mother, but not that bad, hence the calling in come 5 to!

C&C at least with cats there is the real and rather lovely HOPE that they won't come back, not the fear!

Weirs sound bad.

Yes, PM, they do indeed. Be afraid. And buy lots of gin.

Lovely to hear from everyone.

Expat mum said...

That feeling is like nothing else in the world. I have had to go so far as to call the police once (7 year old daughter at the time, wandered off in the park "to lie down in the bushes" for 20 minutes) and get the coast guards out (11 and 9 year olds, at the time,) went out on the rocks at Tynemouth and I was too busy with newish baby to remember how quickly the tide comes in.
Arg - it's only 8am here and I need a glass of wine.
Glad he's OK though.

Fennie said...

That was a really wonderful story, Milla, though I can imagine the sinking heart, the pit in the stomach, the brain racing at all the awful possibilities.

It has happened to most of us. YD aged about five vanished at the Royal Welsh Show. 'Are you lost,'said a kind, well-meaning soul. 'Let's pretend I am and see what happens,' replied YD about six feet away from parents whose noses were stuck in some stall.
Oh the catastrophe - I saw a lady take her that way' - said passers-by pointing vaguely.

Yes, yes it must be the same feeling.

But high comedy in the way you tell it.

Fennie said...

That was a really wonderful story, Milla, though I can imagine the sinking heart, the pit in the stomach, the brain racing at all the awful possibilities.

It has happened to most of us. YD aged about five vanished at the Royal Welsh Show. 'Are you lost,'said a kind, well-meaning soul. 'Let's pretend I am and see what happens,' replied YD about six feet away from parents whose noses were stuck in some stall.
Oh the catastrophe - I saw a lady take her that way' - said passers-by pointing vaguely.

Yes, yes it must be the same feeling.

But high comedy in the way you tell it.

Preseli Mags said...

Whoever it was that decided women should stick to 14 units a week definitely does not have children. The problem with Playmobil toys and their ilk (apart from the going missing aspect and providing similes for hair-dos) is the way they have of disabling an unshod parental foot. I hope barbecue man has returned home now.

SandyCalico said...

OMG, how scary. My heart dropped into my boots when it took me more than five seconds to find my little man at playgroup today (he was crouching down behind the pedal car). Where's that corkscrew!

Brown Dog said...

However did I manage to miss these two gems? I was with you every step of the way on the gin-regretting hunt for Barbecue Man, and loved the description of the woman with Playmobil hair and clamped arms - there's one at our school, too. Horrid, horrid children - my heart goes out to dear F10 (although he does sound a bit of a pickle, what with the slippery-fish hand incident in Boots - more than enough to drive a mother to gin). Would love to know what the ledge looks like. A lot better than Playmobil hair, I'd wager.

Fab, fab writing, Milla - you are a star, you know.

(I'm not sure which is worse, PM, unshod-foot-wise - playmobil or Lego.)

Pondside said...

You nailed the horrible feeling - the racing thoughts/heart - anyone who's lost a child for even 2 minutes would recognize it.
Really good writing here.

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

How scary. And how typical of children to be totally unconcerned. Hope the barbeque was quickly found, if only for your own sanity!

Maddie Grigg said...

It's a horrible feeling. I've experienced it with my children. And I remember when I 'ran away' when I was about six and went back home after what I thought was about an hour (probably 10 minutes), no-one had realised I had gone. I felt more weretched than before!

Sally's Chateau said...

Sheeeeeeesh, I mean you got me going there lady. 15.09, too early for a gin to calm myself down.

Fantastic Forrest said...

You can't just leave us all with that cliffhanger! Was the barbecue found?!

Your writing is sublime. I came over from Little Brown Blog to check you out, Milla, after reading some pithy comment you made. Country Lite is a delight.

As the mother of a former small boy, I can totally relate to this experience. As a writer, I envy your skill.

CAMILLA said...

Hi Milla honey...... humble apologies for not visiting, just trying to catch up. Heavens,! my heart was in my mouth wheh I first read, so pleased darling F10 was found safe and well.

Hope Barbeque Man soon turns up, and readily supply of G&T.


Calico Kate said...

I thought you were very restrained all told. But what you didn't tell was the size of the gin after he'd gone to bed!! So glad story had a happy ending.

ChrisH said...

Oh, Berlimey, Milla, you've been having a tough time. I don't think any of us with children could read either of these posts without a shiver of empathy; those berludy Monster Mothers who spawn ghastly demon children, the 'Where Was I?' scenario of a missing child - we've all been there but you captured it so well. F10 doesn't know it yet, but all he has to do is wait by the river and one day the bodies of his enemies will float by.

dulwich divorcee said...

You capture that terrible gut-churning moment when you realise they're missing so well! Had one recently with a 2 year old I was looking after for five mins, OMG! Years off my life. Thank goodness F10 turned up.

KittyB said...

I've got prickly armpits just thinking of the panic of losing a small boy. Not good, thank the lard he turned up.

Do you want a Playmobil Pirate Foot? We have a few severed ones (thanks to thise pesky ball-and-chain doofers) kicking about (pun not exactly intended but I do rather like it...)

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