Saturday, as I talked about in my other post, I ran 20 miles. But running was just one small part of my Saturday. I did a bunch of other stuff too.
One of the least cool things I did on Saturday was experience my second most horrible and terrifying moment as a parent. The first--in case you are wondering--was when Carmella was 4 months old and had a blood infection and had to be hospitalized for a week and I thought she was going to die.
I'm totally over that since she didn't die but what happened on Saturday made me feel exactly as I did then: The mental and physical exhaustion of 2 ER trips and a doctor visit only to be sent home and told she had a stomach virus and was only dehydrated; The panic at not knowing what to do when she wouldn't stop vomiting; The worry as I rode in the ambulance with my pale and sick looking baby to the hospital. The whole time wondering if my baby was going to die; The emotional and physical pain I felt as I stood over her crying with engorged and leaking breasts as the nurses instructed me to hold her down and hold her very still as she screamed like she had never screamed before so they could perform a gazillion tests on her. Tests so they could figure out why the hell she was so sick and what, if anything, they could do to make her better. As it turned out antibiotics proved the easy answer and she recovered and is the happy well-adjusted 5 year old you see in all these pictures.
That is exactly how I felt on Saturday, all of it-- well, exactly all except for the part concerning the engorged and leaking breasts. That of course is no longer an issue but I did have stiff calves and sore hips. So my body ached-- just in different places for a different reasons. The terror, though, of the unknown and the very real possibility of losing one of my children and the mental exhaustion?-- yeah, all that was the same. It felt absolutely awful and exactly as horrible as it did 5 years ago.
But before I get into what happened that made my heart race faster than it does after I sprint a 5K let me tell you why such a situation was even possible.
See, Saturday was the day of Carmella's fall festival. And Saturday, for those unacquainted with the good old boy life here in Georgia, was also Opening Day.
Opening Day you ask?
My, my aren't you all cosmopolitan.
I'm talking about hunting. Deer hunting to be precise. As in kill cute-big-brown-eyes-Bambi hunting. Ryan is into that.
Yeah, I'm not terribly keen on it either. But not because I am a card carrying PETA member but because it means he goes out of town a lot and leaves me at home alone with the babies.
Some people are golf widows.
I'm a deer widow.
My husband; he's The Deer Hunter.
Try to hold back the envy.
What pray tell does that have to do with Carmella's school's Fall Festival you might be wondering?
Well, I'll tell you: It means I had to take the kids by myself to the festival.
So what? What's the big deal in that, you might be wondering; this time rolling your eyes at me.
See, and that is what I naively thought too.
But listen up because you may some day have a child like Beau for yourself. Hopefully you will remember this tale and maybe because of that you will do things a little differently. Or perhaps at least you will show a little more trepidation than I before taking your 3 year old and 5 year old to a very crowded festival alone. But at the very least you won't roll your eyes at me anymore.
Before you even bring it up I'm just going to go ahead and tell you the option of skipping out on the Fall Festival wasn't an option. At all.
First of all when I was younger I remember my school's annual Fall Festival was one of the brightest stars in my little universe. It was a huge deal and always tons of fun. So how can I deny Carmella her first one just because Mommy likes to torture herself with twenty mile runs and Daddy has an insane need to sit in a tree for hours on end until some hapless deer wanders by that he will try to shoot and inevitably miss so that he has to go hunting 6 more times until deer season is over? Well, running-- as important and vital as it is to who I am-- is my gig but it can't get in the way of my and my kids other priorities. Same with Ryan's penchant for playing the Deer Hunter.
And secondly, as co-room mother I pretty much had to volunteer to work the festival. It is just one of those things. I was assigned the second shift at the Bean Bag toss. As it turned out the Bean Bag toss proved to have a huge draw. Who knew?
This might have had something to do with the fact that the person-- me-- running it gave a prize just for handing her-- me-- a ticket. Poppy, who had the shift after me, pretty much ran the toss the same has I had. I'm fairly certain he gave family discounts too.
I had arranged for Bubbles to meet me before my shift and she graciously agreed to do the festival rounds with the kids while I slaved away at the toss. Meme and Patric also agreed to help her. So although I was tired from my run I figured it would be okay since I would only have to walk around with the kids for an hour or so. The rest of the time I could just stand there and take tickets for the bean bag toss.
The festival was from 3-6pm. A little after 3pm the kids and I walked up to the school. I had a hard time keeping up with Beau and Carmella as it was. But then these two little dogs decided to follow us. And here is where I implore dog owners to keep their dogs locked up or on a leash, as, after all, that does just happen to be the law in this county. The leash law is not just for their safety but for the safety of others. I can't even begin to tell you how much it sucks and how scary it can be to be chased by a dog that weighs only a bit less than you. You may be taller, bigger even but your teeth are no where near as sharp or ferocious. And even though you are strong and can run fast you are not fast enough nor strong enough to match a big dog.
Okay, so that wasn't the case with the two dogs that followed us. But that did happen twice on my run on Saturday and happens way more frequently than it does not. So you can see why on Saturday as to why I was in absolutely no mood for dogs. Not that I ever am but regardless: Dog owners of our county: THERE IS A LEASH LAW!!! Obey it.
The kids, the annoying little dogs and I walked up to the school. Carmella and I urged the dogs to go home but they wouldn't. I was already tired and carrying Beau on my shoulders so I decided to ignore them--I had enough to deal with as it was. Both dogs nearly got run over on several occasions crossing the main road back and forth and people in the cars who had to slam on their brakes to avoid hitting them looked to me with angry scowls and annoyed looks. One guy in a convertible yelled to me "to control my dogs." I immediately corrected him that they were not my dogs.
By the time we finally get to the festival I am pretty irritated at the whole situation. The dogs continue to cause a scene but thankfully latch on to someone else who mistakenly paid them the slightest bit of attention.
The kids and I buy tickets and I quickly realize that I had underestimated the size and scope of the festival. Carmella's school's property is huge and the whole track and back field is crowded with booths, games, inflatable jumpies and kids. Tons of kids. It was total chaos. I was tired just looking at it.
Before I can even put the tickets in my purse Beau is running full sprint towards one of the inflatables. I yell at him to come back and ask Carmella what she wants to do first. Carmella is overwhelmed but Beau is adamant about the jumpy and is already removing his shoes and making his way onto the inflatable rock climbing wall.
"Okay, fine, " I say as I pull Beau off and explain to him that he needs tickets and he has to wait in line for his turn. At the same time, while holding Beau's collar I order Carmella to take her boots off and go on it with Beau.
While Carmella sits down to take off her boots I hand tickets to the girl and let Beau on. I was thinking it was going to take him a while to scale that wall and that he would most definitely need Carmella's help. And here is where I went wrong. As always I underestimate his ability. I also took my eyes off of him climbing that wall to look down at Carmella to see why in the hell it was taking her so long to take her boots off. Mistake number 2--never take your eyes off of Beau. NEVER.
Carmella hands me her boots and I help her climb on the inflatable. I realize then that Beau is no longer climbing on it. I run around to the other side--on the other side is a slide--thinking he made it over. No Beau. I ask a man and some kids standing at the bottom if they saw Beau--"little boy, plaid shirt crazy blond hair," I say. No, they all say. Grrr. I am very annoyed.
I run back to the climbing side-- thinking maybe I just didn't see him. I see Carmella and ask if she sees Beau. No.
So I run back to the front side and I ask again, this time to no one in particular if they saw Beau. No one answers me or seems to hear me. There are so many kids and people around and I am starting to panic. I look around and try to guess which direction he would have gone in and to where next. Directly across from me, up a hill is another inflatable.
I run back to the climbing side and order Carmella down and to put her boots back on. In the meantime I run up the hill towards the other inflatable and mid-way is the ticket table. My neighbor is selling tickets. I ask him if he has seen Beau and he says no. I tell him I have lost him and if he sees him to hold on to him. I run over to the other inflatable--no Beau. I run back down the hill and beg Carmella to please hurry while I yell and continue searching for Beau.
I am so desperate. And there are so many people, so many kids, so many things and all the while I am also trying to keep an eye on Carmella. I continue to look and to call for Beau. I tell Carmella no matter what she is to stay with me. Now we are both calling as loud as we can for Beau. I go up on the hill again and scan the field. We call and look for him there. This moment is like a scene from a movie in which the main character is at a carnival and goes into the fun house or is on the spinning cup ride. I am seeing everything but can't focus on anything. Everything is bright and distorted. It is loud but everything sounds far away and I feel like my voice sounds like I am shouting from the bottom of a cup.
The man from the climbing inflatable comes up to me--he seems to be the only one who has noticed my panic and heard me screaming Beau's name. He tells me his wife is going to help me look for Beau. She asks what he looks like. I describe him and she sweetly tries to console me by saying "if you are going to lose a kid this is the best place to do it." She is being kind, I know. But to me it sounds patronizing because I can think of no other place a creepy child predator would want to be than an elementary school festival. It would be like fishing in an aquarium. Not to mention on the front side of the school is the road with cars roaring by at over 45 mph. But I know I can't let myself think that Beau is on that side of the school or in the clutches of some pervert. I have to think that he has just run off and is happily making the rounds of the festival.
Another women joins our search and the 4 of us run around screaming Beau's name but only Carmella and I really know what he looks like. What I want at that moment is for every person at that festival to stop what they are doing, be quiet and for God sakes help me look for my little boy. But that doesn't happen. Everyone- but me, Carmella and the 2 women helping us --are blissfully unaware of my drama.
Carmella and I run down to the other end of the field and every person I know that knows Beau I stop and tell them I have lost him and ask if they have they seen him. No. No is the answer from every person. I am in an absolute state of panic now.
Now, keep in mind that Beau has wandered/run off before but that has been in a store or an enclosed area that was significantly less crowded and much quieter. So while I may have lost sight of him before I can usually hear him and I have always found him again within a few minutes. This situation is entirely different. Beau has been missing at least 10 minutes now and that seems like an eternity and is long enough that I feel like I may really never see him again. I am absolutely sick about it. I feel like I can't breathe. The thoughts that are creeping into my head. Oh my God.
And then, I see him: Sprinting gleefully across the field. A huge smile plastered on his determined face. His wild blonde hair flies around him and his shirt whips like a cape behind him.
"Beau!" I scream. "There he is!" I call out to the other women. "I found him!"
And Beau at this moment realizes the jig is up and takes off running harder in the other direction. I am chasing him and finally run him down. Carmella catches up to us and together she and I yell at him. It is then I realize she is crying and feel terrible for having scared her. Beau is, of course, completely unfazed and baffled at Carmella and I's anger and concern. I am shaking and still can't catch my breath. The three off us huddle there in the middle of the field with the games, the inflatables and the chaotic kids spinning all around us. I feel that we are the only still things there in the brightness of the day. And even as I dial Bubbles on my cell and tell her that I need her to be here 15 minutes ago, I feel unable to reconnect with the world.
Outwardly, I manage to pull it together and try to let the incident slide from my mind as I take the kids around to the booths and games and try to spend all our tickets. I really don't have a moment to process what has happened because Bubbles and Meme and Patric and Baby Pat all arrive and then it is time for me to go man the Bean Bag Toss. My parents arrive then too and I feel okay leaving; knowing that there at least several eyes and hands available to watch Beau and Carmella.
I can't say that I had such a great time at the Fall Festival and I certainly remember having much more fun attending my school's festival when I was younger.
The kids though had a blast; and I suppose Bubbles, Pop, Poppy, Lala, Patric, Meme and Baby Pat enjoyed themselves too.
Carmella told me it was the most fun festival she has ever been to but adds: except for the part where we lost Beau and she cried.
Yeah, I didn't like that part too much either.