When a Child Goes Missing
A moment that can change your life forever
-Melina Gerosa Bellows
In the blink of an eye, he’s gone missing. My friend Tricia’s 20-month-old son, Spencer. One minute he was there, toddling around bowlegged in his khaki pants and an orange t-shirt, and the next he’s vanished.
Earlier that morning, Tricia called to set up a playdate. “Come over with Chase and Mackenzie,” she said, “We’ll feed the kids an early dinner and catch up.”
It sounded like an ideal plan. My kids, Chase and Mackenzie, are tight with Tricia’s 5-year-old son Christopher.
While our older kids entertain themselves, Tricia and I like to compare notes on the latest child-rearing techniques, from time-outs to sticker charts, making veggies yummy, and even more importantly, how to stay sane while micromanaging the futures of these complicated little beings. Let’s be real: playdates are as much for the mommies as the kids.
“I’ll bring a pizza and we’ll see you around four,” I said cheerily and informed my brood of their latest social engagement.
“Can I play with Christopher, too?” chirped Mackenzie, who cannot believe her luck at mowing her brother’s playdate lawn.
“Do you think Tricia will let us play on the moon bounce?” asked Chase. Christopher had gotten a moon bounce from Santa. The entire contraption takes less than 10 seconds to inflate.
“We’ll see,” I say. “Maybe if you are really good and use the magic word, Tricia will say yes.”
It turned out to be a beautiful afternoon, so we hung out in Tricia’s fenced-in back yard. Chase and Christopher ran around happily, and Mackenzie adorned me with a black plastic pirate hat before applying herself to making mud pies near the birdbath. Spencer, as usual, was Tricia’s small shadow, following her every step. He never likes his Mom to be out of sight.
After a bit, the subject of the moon bounce was breached.
“Please, please, please???” the kids begged.
Tricia looked at me and rolled her eyes. Saying yes would mean going to the basement and hauling the contraption up the stairs and outside. Plus the blower makes a racket once it’s going.
“OK,” she said, relenting. “But you have to let Spencer take a turn, too.”
Tricia went inside and I continued making mud pies with Mackenzie. Chase and Christopher followed Tricia inside to “help.”
That’s when it happens: the moment that could change our lives forever. Nonchalantly I call in to Tricia and ask, “Is Spencer with you?”
“Um, no,” she calls out, not particularly alarmed. After all, where could he go? The most dangerous area would be the steps to the basement, and Tricia can easily see he’s not there.