We went Christmas shopping. Early. I am early for most things in my life. I hate being late.
First we went to Macy’s for something for my folks. Then to the food court for lunch. Off to find the Disney store — well we found where it should have been, but turns out it closed. What’s new? Went to Claire’s for earrings for my sister’s oldest and then back to Macy’s for something for 2 of my nieces. Pit stop at the candy machine for lollipops cuz the kiddos were being excellent. Over to the kids section in Macy’s and the hunt began. Why is it that baby girls always have to wear pink? I wanted lavender since my sister loves that color and it’s her daughter. Anyway, I found 2 adorable outfits for the babe (not in lavender) and a sweater for the older one (who’s actually the middle one) and went over to pay.
My kids were having a blast playing in the dressing rooms. No one was in there — I checked. So why not? The register was 3 rows of clothes away from the dressing room opening. It kept them happy and made my wait in line somewhat pleasant. I had a funny chat with the woman in line in front of me and cracked a joke that “I should pretend I’m in labor, that way you would let me go first”. And we all laughed. I’m a goon. I love to laugh and make others laugh too. Fun.
Jeremy came out with lollipop all over his hands and face with a piece of tootsie roll in the palm of his hand claiming “this part is yuck Mom”. I told him to go back in the dressing room and throw it away in the trashcan. I told Brianna to go with him. Seconds later it was my turn to check out and chat with the clerk. She was a very friendly lady and we talked about how Macy’s always has the greatest sales — don’t let the price tag scare you — kind of stuff.
Hmmm. Too quiet. I told her “here’s my coupon, I’ll be right back”. I started for the opening to the dressing room and Brianna came from the opposite side of the store. What the…? How did she get out of that dressing room without me noticing?
Bree: “Mom, I’m still looking for a trashcan. There wasn’t one in the dressing room.”
Me: “Nevermind the trashcan, Bree, where were you?”
Bree: “I was…”
Me: [I cut her off] “Where is your brother? Where is Jeremy?”
Bree: “I don’t know, Mom.”
I grabbed her hand and half-ran half-walked through Macy’s shouting for my son. The lady who was helping me check out went the other direction doing the same thing. Somewhere around the jewelry section another Macy’s sales clerk stopped me and asked “how old is he and what does he look like”. She had a walkie talkie “I’ll call security”. Tick tock tick tock too much time is passing where is my son. I said “he’s 2 1/2, has buzzed brown hair, brown eyes, jean shorts, and I can’t remember the color of his shirt”. She said that’s ok just keep looking for him.
“JEREMY” “JAY-JAY” “JEREMY ANSWER MOMMY”
My heart beats out of my chest. Brianna is running as fast as her little legs can carry her to keep up with me. Thank you God she didn’t trip and fall. I may have left her there if she had. Maybe not. I don’t know. People are staring at us. I don’t f-ing care who stares at me FIND MY SON.
“JEREMY WHERE ARE YOU” “JAY-JAY”
I round the corner near the perfume counters and ask the lady helping a male customer “have you seen a little boy come by here — he’s 2 1/2”. She said no and I kept right on trucking. I didn’t even say “thanks” that she answered me. I didn’t care.
I hear little feet running. Stop. Listen. Look. Little feet. Not him. Those stupid little feet belonged to someone else’s toddler. Run faster. “Brianna hold on to my hand tight, honey, we have to find him.” She’s wide-eyed and determined “alright Mom, I’m ok, just get him”. “I’m trying baby I’m trying — we’ll find him”.
I’m running for the front of the store — the mall entrance. As I pass doors that lead to the outside of the mall my heart is skipping beats and my eyes are scanning as far as I can see. Not there. Where is he?
Tick tock. Too much time. This is taking too long. Faster. Have to run-walk faster.
I am about to turn left and I see the clerk that was helping me in the baby department waving her hands. “Did you find him?” I can’t tell by her expression what she’s trying to tell me. The blonde with the walkie talkie comes out of nowhere pointing at a man. The man, dressed like he was straight out of GQ, was carrying my son as fast as he could over to me.
I collapsed. I dropped everything I had in my arms and let go of Brianna and collapsed into sobs. Until I saw my baby boy in that man’s arms I wasn’t thinking about anything other than shout loud and find him and do it quickly. When I saw him images flashed through my mind that are more wicked than I am able to type on here.
There he was. He had lollipop all over his chin and neck. He was a sticky mess. Brianna was pulling on my legs asking me why I was crying. Hands were giving Jeremy to me and picking up my bags and my purse. An arm was around my shoulders urging me to come back to the children’s department to gather the rest of my things. I was trying to thank everyone standing there as they were leaving the “scene”. I couldn’t stop the tears. Someone handed me two tissues. I saw smiling faces with relief filled eyes as I carried my precious son in my arms.
I finished paying for the gifts and I didn’t put Jeremy down until we reached the bathroom where I cleaned him up. I let them ride the rides on the way out of the mall. What’s $3.00 for a few kiddie rides? I have my son. He can ride anything he wants. So can my daughter — she grew up in those few minutes of the panic filled search for her brother. She was helping me the best she could, calling out his name, telling me his shirt was green (it was blue, by the way — but she was trying to help and I couldn’t remember).
I strapped them in their carseats. They were asleep before we got to the Turnpike.
I called my husband because I needed to tell him that everything is ok even though he had no idea anything had been wrong.
I still had the wicked images in my head of what could have been.
I thought of Madelaine McCann’s parents and I said another prayer for them… and for her. She’s still missing and it’s been over a year since she was abducted. I thought of Adam Walsh. I thought of Daphne (a bloggy friend) who hunted for her daughter for over an hour one day only to find her hidden under some blankets on a bed. I thought of all of the parents who will do what I just did yet won’t be reunited with their child again. I thought of Amber from “Amber Alert”. I thought of Jessica from “Jessica’s Law”. I thought of them all and I cried some more. I prayed. I thanked God.
Then I relaxed, took a peak in my rearview to see him sound asleep, and I smiled. He’s safe.
He’s safe. He’s here. My Jeremy. My Brianna.
My world would crash if I lost either of them.
Never again. I won’t let them out of my sight. I think I’ll do the rest of my Christmas shopping when Daddy can stay home with the little ones.