Sunday, September 6, 2009
the great minnesota get together...
So. This is where we lost Ava. The Minnesota State Fair. One minute, she was there. The next minute, she was gone.
As I looked over this enormous sea of people, I couldn't even begin to think about where to start looking for her. I put the two older girls at a corner and insisted that they STAY PUT! They held hands and held their breath. And Rick and I ran in circles shouting Ava's name at the top of our lungs.
Other parents seeing what was going on started searching as well.
If felt like HOURS.
Shouting and running and looking. Running in circles. Shouting like crazy people.
Then, I stopped at a ticket booth. "How can I find my child?" I shouted through the bullet proof glass. "I can't find my daughter! She's too little to be here alone. She's only 4 years old! I can't find her."
They were calm and gentle and efficient. The sweet smelling lady in the blue t-shirt picked up her walkie-talkie and started talking to people at other ticket booths. Have you seen...? She's really little... Yes, pink dress...
Calling and talking and paging.
Then, someone called back.
"We think we found her." the quiet voice crackeled on the other end.
The lady in blue picked up the phone to get the details in private. Trying not to frighten me. I am shaking and tears are running down my hot cheeks. There are too many of us in this tiny ticket booth. Everyone is trying to be calm. They talk too quietly. I am very afraid. I hear everyone breathing.
Then, the nice lady hung up the phone and turned to me. "Is her name Ava?"
I could only nod.
"They've found her. She's OK. She's at the East ticket booth. Mike will take you there now."
I don't know if I said thank you. I had to run to keep up with Mike. He looked to be about 72 - short, maybe an ex-marine. As we walked-ran-darted through the crowd to where we hoped to find Ava, he said, too quietly, "you'd be surprised how many people this happens too. We'll be there in just a minute. Can you keep up?"
I couldn't see anything through my tears. I wasn't breathing. I was frantic. I'm so glad that he kept talking. It gave me something to hold onto. Something to follow through all of the sweaty State Fair visitors.
Then, there she was. In the arms of a very nice looking woman. She wasn't crying. She wasn't talking or fighting to get out of her arms. She was just waiting. I heard the woman say, "Don't worry, sweetheart. They'll find your mom. Mom's sometimes get lost at the fair."
"OK" was her tiny answer.
Then I had her in my arms. I was squeezing her and holding her and crying into her sweaty hair.
The nice woman patted my arm, and said, "Everything will be OK now, mom. You found her." Two college girls showed up from across the street. "Are you her mom? We were really worried. We saw her standing here. She was lost. We didn't know what to do. You're her mom, right?"
"Yes. Yes! I'm her mom!"
Then Mike turned me around and started steering me back to the other ticket booth. The last place I'd seen my other children. I hadn't even told Rick I had her. I hadn't told anyone where I was going. I just went.
Mike reached over and patted my shoulder. "Remember, it's not her fault. She didn't mean to get lost."
"I know." I said. "I know. She's only four years old. It was my fault. My fault that Ava got lost. It wasn't her fault at all."
I was calling Rick on his cell phone when we turned the corner. He had his cell phone in his hand to call me. He looked like I felt. Then he cried when he saw Ava in my arms.
Then, a doughy lady and her pasty husband, along with their 5 children, held Rick's hand and said, "I new something bad was happening when I heard you calling for your daughter. You looked so frightened. I started praying right then that God would bring her back to you safely. We all prayed."
"Yes we did," said the husband, nodding his head gently.
"God answered our prayers today at the Minnesota State Fair."
Thank you. Thank you for praying. Thank you for looking. Thank you for caring about one family's daughter. Thank you sweet smelling lady with the quiet voice. Thank you Mike who led me through the crowd. Thank you to the moms and dads that saw our panic and started to search with us. Thank you young girls who knew that something wasn't right about a four year old girl standing alone at the Fair. Thank you nice woman who told my daughter that it would be ok, mom's get lost sometimes. Thank you praying lady for caring enough to stop what you were doing and care for Rick and our family. Thank you, God, for teaching us how precious our children are and how quickly our lives could change.
This whole thing lasted 15 minutes.
What do you do if you loose your child for a lifetime?
Ava is snuggled in bed, waiting for me to tuck her in. I am so thankful that she is safe. I have a whole new prayer to say tonight.