Did you know that there is no such thing as a Patron Saint of Lost Children? There are, however, Patron Saints of Plasterers, Boy Scouts (I could really get inappropriate with this one), Skiers, and even one for Cramps. But there is not a Patron Saint of Lost Children. Abandoned Children, yes. Lost Children? No. This is precisely the reason I have applied for the job.
I didn’t go looking for this job; this job found me. I probably should tell you that I am one of those paranoid mothers that never once took my eye off my grocery cart while my infant daughter slept soundly in her car seat. She’s five now. See, I did a good job. But I instill in her the importance of never, ever getting out of my sight. Especially in public places. Now I’m no helicopter mom, but as far as trusting society, I don’t. This probably stems from my many years as a bartender. If you want to know about a person, serve them alcohol. You’ll find out all kinds of shit you probably didn’t want to know. And trust me, you WILL be amazed (and scared)!
Luckily, I have raised a daughter who has some sensory issues. For one, she doesn’t like it when you brush her hair. Two, she will hold her hands over her ears if she’s in a loud place. And three, don’t ever, EVER try and touch her. Even her own Grandparents get the face palm every now and then. On the other hand, she is extremely affectionate to my husband and myself. But because of her “condition” she doesn’t like strangers very much, which is fine with me. Sure my kid won’t smile at you when you tell her she’s cute. Why? Because she doesn’t trust you! You see, she didn’t need years of slinging booze to decide that society is flawed; she was born with that knowledge.
So as far as strangers go, they are going to have a tough time trying to coax my kid with a little candy and promises of a puppy. I’ve also given her the 411 on those little tricks. But what amazes me is, the lack of safety on the part of other parents. Do they not know that children are taken on a daily basis? It infuriates me!
Just this last weekend I took my daughter to the Memorial City Mall here in Houston. Now the Memorial City Mall is pretty cool for a kid. They have a train inside the mall that is not on tracks so the conductor can drive you and your kid willy-nilly all over the mall for three bucks a pop. They also have a carousel that I have to close my eyes on because the spinning makes me want to vomit. But because I love my child, I go on it anyway. And the Crème de la crème of the mall is the play center. The play center looks like Puff the Magic Dragon was there and threw up a pastel castle. For a kid this place is AWESOME! There are tunnels and slides. There are dragons you can climb on. They even have a hole dug in the floor on one side of the castle made of some child friendly material painted to look like a small pond. The kids just jump right in and roll around in the non-existent water. And they love every germ-infested inch of it!
I’ve been taking my child to the magic castle for a few years now. The weather in Houston isn’t always kind, so it’s a great place to go and let your child blow off some steam. They have a strict “no shoes” policy and a real life security guard who enforces it. The castle is surrounded by a multi colored circular wall and there is only one entrance in and one entrance out. And that entrance is guarded by the shoe police, I mean security guard.
Now when I take my kid I usually sit near the entrance and let her run free inside. I figure as long as I keep my eye on the door she’s not going to come or go without my knowledge. If I haven’t seen her blond knotted hair fly by me for a couple of minutes, I track her down just for my own piece of mind. Inside the castle walls are moms and the occasional dad looking tired and haggard playing on their phones and just trying to enjoy the little “me” time they get by sitting back in the cushy benches the Mall has been kind enough to provide. Even though I’m not this kid’s mom, or that kid’s mom, I’m still a mom. And if I saw someone else’s kid leave the play center I sure as hell would say something.
That was apparently not the case this last Saturday afternoon. After my daughter and I left the play center we sat down on some comfy little couches in the mall to put our shoes back on. Next thing I know, Mini Me and I are standing there staring at a tiny little thing with dark curly hair, a pink dress, and no shoes. What the…?
“Where is your mommy, sweetie?” I asked the small person. She looked at me and then pointed to one side of the mall.
“Is your mommy down there?” I asked pointing in the same direction. Once again she pointed. Ah, this is a game I see. Who can find the non-speaking child’s mommy? I want to play! I want to play! And that’s when I took out my Scooby Snacks and enlisted my daughter’s help.
“Mini Me, will you help me find this child’s mother for a Scooby Snack.
“Ohray!” My kid will pretty much do almost anything for Scooby snacks. So let the games begin! Here are my clues:
- She’s short. Could be a midget dressed as a kid.
- She’s eerily silent. Either she’s not old enough to talk yet, or she doesn’t understand English.
- She has really nice teeth so she most likely belongs to someone. Hummm….maybe I should be looking for a dentist.
- She’s wearing a pink dress. That would either make her a really cute little girl. Or a gender confused little boy. I’m going to go with the first option on this one.
- She doesn’t have any shoes on. That’s when the light bulb went off in my head. MAGIC CASTLE!
“We need to find your mommy,” I told the wee one, even though I briefly thought she would make a wonderful new addition to our little family. And if that didn’t work out, she would also make a really cute hood ornament. So I opened up my arms and she grabbed onto me like she knew me. Up I lifted her until we were face to face. And then we just stared at one another. Maybe she was also impressed with my dental work. I do have really nice teeth if I do say so myself. Anyway, I’m getting off topic. On to the Magic Castle!
Once I approached the Magic Castle with the lost child in one arm and Mini Me trailing us, the security guard perked right up.
“I just found this little girl all by herself standing in the middle of the mall,” I told him as I pointed out the place I found her.
“Well I just came on. She didn’t get out on my watch,” he told me all in a huff.
“I’m sure she didn’t (did). I just want to walk through the castle and see if I can find her mom,” I told him in my very best “I can’t believe you let this little girl get out of the gate” voice. At this point you would think maybe he would call his security coworkers and try to get this thing settled. But of course he didn’t. He let me, a total stranger; walk around with this little lost child. At this point I was becoming very protective of my new little friend. As I walked around the castle I held her tight to me like she was mine. Mini was behind me giving dirty looks to the other parents and cracking her knuckles. She wasn’t going to let just anyone take her future little sister away from us.
And that’s when it happened. A woman came running into the castle and right towards me thanking me for finding her child. As the woman went to grab for the child I leaned back away from her. I wasn’t sure if I was okay with this. But the lost child seemed okay with it so I handed her over. Reluctantly. And before I knew it I had just lost a second daughter and Mini had just lost a little sister. It was kind of depressing really.
I would like to say that that was the only lost child I have found at the Memorial City Mall but alas, I had also found another. A little over a year ago I was in Macy’s with my mother in law. Now I must tell you a little something about my mother in law so that you don’t get the wrong idea about her. My mother in law is a very very sweet woman. However, once she gets an idea in her head it has to happen NOW! Like right now! She also has a tendency to over-book herself. My mother in law probably gets done in 2 hours what it takes me all day to accomplish. She’s that fast. I’ve actually considered grinding up Xanax and slipping it into her iced tea just so she’ll slow down a bit. Sometimes she makes me nervous will all her running around.
So there we were at Macy’s during the Christmas season, and I was digging through the overly priced clothing to find something for my daughter to wear while trying to appease my mother in law all at the same time. It’s not easy. My kid is in the 99th percentile in height for her age, so I tend to not spend a lot of money on her clothes because she’ll just outgrow them in three months. So $50 for a pair of pants is out of the question. I could tell that my mother in law was getting impatient. We had been there for a full 10 minutes and I hadn’t even picked out one thing. She had already told me she needed to be somewhere in a half hour and that I needed to pick out some clothes or perish trying. There I was digging through clothes when I heard a small child crying. I walked out of the racks and into the aisle and there was a little girl crying her eyes out.
“Where is your mommy?” I asked her. She just stared at me. Yes, another mute child. Apparently it’s an epidemic.
“Sweetie, where’s your mommy?” I asked her again in my soft calming voice. The child continued to cry, but reached out and took the hand I had extended to her. That’s when my mother in law took the child and placed her strategically in the middle of the children’s department and told her, “You just stay right there until your mommy finds you,” and proceeded to walk away.
“You can’t just leave her here there!” I protested. But my mother in law was already gone. I told you she’s deceptively quick. So I took the child’s hand again, and started to walk her around Macy’s. Thankfully a sales associate came up to us. Once I told the sales woman I had found the child she immediately asked the child in Spanish where her mommy was. Ah, Spanish. Good thing I took three years of French because it has done me NO good!
Needless to say my mother in law was thrilled to have me back on the agenda of finding ridiculously overpriced clothing. I picked out a few items for Mini, and with the 20% off coupon my mother in law had plus the extra 20% off we got for using her Macy’s card, I still got to spend $98 on clothes I didn’t really like all that much anyway.
“Can I write you a check? I don’t have any cash on me,” I asked her, but she was already out the door to do Lord knows what.
So there it is. I have officially sent in my application to the Vatican requesting that I be named the Patron Saint of Lost Children. I’m just waiting to hear back. My mother in law however has gotten to be a Saint herself. She is now the Patron Saint of I’ve got 5 thousand things to do today and finding your mother isn’t one of them.