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Red thread

No Tommy.

He loves the leaves, and yesterday was a very good leaf day. It was gusty, twirly whirly wind that spawned mini leaf-filled tornadoes. He wanted to watch.

I was in the kitchen, cleaning breakfast dishes and attempting to scrub the crusty, burned-on spots from our glasstop range. I could easily see Tommy sitting on top of the Little Tykes car, watching the action. He was barefoot, but it was warm enough and he was sitting, so I thought nothing of it. Joel decided to join him outside. I could hear them talking and squealing. I continued cleaning.

It was nearing the time we had to fetch Sammy from kindergarten, so I went outside to get the boys. I picked up Joel, who was playing in the wood chips on the side of the house, but didn’t see Tommy. I thought he must have gone inside while my back was turned.

I looked in the living room, where Nick Jr. was futily entertaining spiders and dust bunnies—he wasn’t there. I went back outside and looked on both sides of the house and through the giant leaf pile in the corner of the yard, where the wind blew a tidy pile together. He wasn’t outside.

Back inside, I looked in the living room again. Sometimes he piles the couch pillows on top of himself. I looked in the bathroom. I began to call his name and tell him it wasn’t funny to hide.

When I hit the fourth step on my trip upstairs my legs suddenly felt very weak. I called him. I looked in all four bedrooms, the closets, the bathrooms. I ran down the stairs, around a corner, and downstairs to the basement, which was very dark. He never went downstairs without the lights on. He was too afraid. I knew I wouldn’t find him there, but I looked. No Tommy.

I yelled his name. By the time I was back outside again I am pretty sure I was shreiking his name. My legs didn’t want to run and for the first time in my life I was aware that I had to will them to move. A very sick feeling engulfed me, physically, from head to toe. Our house backs to a well-travelled greenbelt. I looked up and down the greenbelt and suddenly I remembered how he was barefoot. My barefoot, losttakenstolenvanishedmissing boy. I shreiked his name and thought about the police and my husband and Joel and the dog. The latter two had been trailing me, the dog barking and Joel saying “Tommy!” very firmly.

I ran around inside the house, into every room again and he was not there, anywhere. I thought of the garage and knew it was my last hope. I opened the door and yelled his name.

“Mommy!” I heard a cry. I ran around the minivan and saw the right side door slid open and Tommy, sitting in his car seat, buckled in, “I can’t get out!” he cried. He got into the garage by knocking the cover off the dog-door that goes from the backyard to the garage, totally bypassing the house. He crawled through it, opened the minivan, and put himself in his car seat. He must have been in there for 10 minutes or so—I have no idea because the passage of time no longer had any meaning.

I unbuckled him and held him and cried and cried and cried. I told him how I thought he was lost. Oh, God, how much of an understatement it was to say. I sat on the floor of the minivan, in the open door, with him in my lap. Joel and the dog had climbed inside. I don’t know how long the four of us were in the van. When we finally went in the house I realized we needed to leave to get Sam.

It has been about 24 hours since No Tommy. I needed to let it sink in and wait for the trembling to stop before writing. I tried last night and ended up posting a picture of flowers from our backyard. I am hard-pressed to think of a time when I was more terrified and I can’t. I honestly thought someone snatched him from our backyard, via the greenbelt.

Yesterday took on an odd hue after No Tommy.

I was distracted, guilt-ridden, and quiet. I thought of parents who have lost children, but never gotten them back. That terror I felt went on and on, goes on and on for them. How entirely grateful I am everything worked out.

So the day went on. Hubby called to remind me about Ryley’s Tiger Scout meeting and how his uniform shirt still needed several badges sewn on. I told him I would do it later in the afternoon, with plenty of time left over before the meeting. After the big kids were home from school, I started.

They wanted to jump in the leaves in the backyard, so I thought I would take the sewing basket outside. I started with the thickest, longest badge. The border of was red, so I used red thread. It would be easy to continue with the three red number patches I had to sew on, too, which signified his pack number. Up and down, forcing the needle through the waxy backing to the embroidery on top. A few times I caught the sleeve in the thread and had to snip and start again. I watched the needle and the kids as they cannonballed into the leaves. Aidan made leaf angels, Sam made something called leaf elephants while laying on his side in the pile. “See my leaf elephant, mom?” he asked. I had to put down my sewing and look. Yep, there was a leaf elephant, I could see it.

I especially kept my eyes on Tommy as I sewed. Red thread through, poke my finger, where’s Tommy, there, back down, knot, knot, knot, pull tight, and snip. Where’s Tommy? There.

I sewed the three numbers on the shirt, one by one. They were slightly crooked, but well-attached. It was getting dark and chilly and my fingers were hurting. I still had one more badge so I told the kids we were going in. They could watch a DVD until dinner.

When I was done I put the shirt on a hanger and hung it on a doorknob. I was tired. Hubby arrived home and noticed the shirt. His eyebrows shot up and he said the last two numbers were reversed. He felt bad about telling me, but as the den leader it would look bad if his kid had the wrong number on his shirt. Instead of 493*, it should have been 439.

I got out the seam ripper and the red thread and the dulled needle. I started over.

It is so much easier to rip seams than sew. How fast everything can unravel. Bright red thread, sewn even and tight, can be plucked apart with astonishingly little effort.

16 comments to Red thread

  • Oh what a fright you must have had! I love the tie-in with the sewing of the badge numbers. It’s a beautifully written post, though I know you must still be shaken. Sending a tight hug for you and Tommy.

  • Tracy (tjly)

    How scary Gretchen! My stomach tied up in knots just reading it. Do you remember my pool scare with Joel when he was little? I just cried and cried with him in my lap afterwards. Your whole life can change in an instant. I’m so glad Tommy is ok. {Hugs}

  • Nini

    So glad Tommy was found safe and sound. I’ve been in that dark scary place too, briefly. I cannot imagine living there day after day either, a taste is bad enough. Big hugs to you and Tommy.

  • Julana

    Now that our son’s walking, I have that fear once in awhile. He can’t answer back when he disappears, and I’m running frantically around the house. Fortunately, he hasn’t opened an outside door yet.
    Glad everything worked out.

  • How scary! I know that’s an understatement, but how else can I say it? I’m SO thankful everything turned out alright. Wonderful tie-in with the badge sewing, too.

  • How well you capture that feeling of terror when our children aren’t where we think they are. Sydney wandered away from me at the library the other day, and the 10 seconds of panic I felt was still too much. I cannot imagine 10 minutes of it. Or days. Or weeks.

    I’m glad Tommy ended up back in your arms, safe and sound.

  • JoAnn

    Oh-Gretchen. What a scare. Thank goodness he was safe. Many, many hugs to you!


  • I’ve felt that too–those utterly dark panic-stricken moments when you suddenly realize the unthinkable may have happened and you cannot take back the last ten minutes of your life–like you, I ache ache ache for those parents who’ve lost their babies. I don’t know how I could live.

  • Oh my word!!! How totally scary!!! My heart sanked to my feet for you. I’m SO glad Tommy is okay.

  • Sounds scary, Gretchen-a few minutes not knowing where a child is at is a LONG time! Glad your little guy is OK!

  • Gretchen…Oh how terrifying. I have experienced this but never for that long. It must have seemed like hours. I am so glad he is safe. May you have a peaceful day!

  • Russ Eldredge

    Gretchen, I can’t believe I haven’t passed by this way for about two weeks now! It’s been a busy two weeks.

    Child #4 decided to show up 3 weeks early, which strangely is about right on time for us. He was born with an extra thumb, of all things. Not a functional one, nor was it skeletally attached, it was just… there. I was immediately grateful, though. An extra thumb is nothing compared to Trisomy. Thank you for your prayers during that difficult time!

    Thank you for continuing to be a wonderful inspiration in our lives! Not only are you a great source of recipes and laughter, but also wisdom and experience.

    Being able to share your feelings, your triumphs and your sufferings makes all of us who read your blog feel not so alone in what we go through from day to day. Thank you again!

  • mopsy

    Russ, and family, congratulations on the birth of your baby boy! What wonderful news and I thank you for stopping by to share your happiness (and for your kind words).

  • Mary

    I am SO glad Tommy was found safely. I felt your terror, anguish & happiness all from that post. May you never have to experience that again!

  • Wow Gretchen, what a horrible ten minutes that must have been. It’s scary how in a split second your life can be turned upside down. The panic is paralyzing. We have had a couple of scares like that and I can’t even begin to comprehend what it must be like for parents who live in those circumstances everyday. I’m so glad you found him. I’ll be hugging my kids a little tighter after reading that.

  • Oh Gretchen I am in tears for you! We live in a quiet neighborhood with 3 acre lots so our children frequently play outside alone. I have felt the fear bubbling in my throat when I would go from window to window searching for them with no luck. Fortunately I have never had to go more than a minute or two in those early stages of panic and terror, I can’t even begin to imagine ten. Sending many hugs for you, I know those ten or so minutes will not soon be forgotten.

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