Growing up in small Oklahoma towns was wonderful in many ways. We probably missed out on a few good things but I also know we side stepped some really bad ones. My earliest three years, which I don't remember at all, we lived in Alva. Alva is not a small town but it isn't a big city either. It is a big town with a good college and a classic downtown square, surrounded by stores. A small city that feels like a big town, I guess you could say. My grandmas lived there and I spent a lot of time with them, or so the story goes.
Then it was four years in Oklahoma City, the state capital, while my dad went to medical school. We lived right across the street from the elementary school and the neighborhood was full of kids our ages. We ran up and down the street, from house to house, playing with everybody. That was a fun time for us but a tough time for mom and dad I'm sure.
Then we moved to a real-live little town and stayed there. Dad is still there. We could walk or ride our bikes all over town and walk to school and back. It was not uphill both ways...only one way. Everyone's mom watched out for all the kids that came running or riding past. No one was worried about anything bad happening to anyone's kids, probably because most of them were related to each other and those of us who weren't related just followed the crowd.
All that was a back story to what happened this evening. I'm not proud of this. This is confession.
I was watching Abbey and Brent's kids while they went to an outdoor dinner downtown with Able and Kari. We loaded up and headed for the ball park to watch Zane play t-ball. Audra had texted me to see if we could get there a little early so B could throw Zane some warm up balls. Well, the previous game hadn't yet ended so there were no parking places. We drove round and round looking for anything that would work without Grandma having to walk a solid mile while carrying folding chairs, snacks and water.
Time ticked by. Nothing.
Finally I decided to drive up close to where Audra and her boys were suppose to be waiting (the merry-go-round, which is the meeting place for everyone) and let Brendan off and then find a place to park. If I had gotten close enough and IF Audra and her boys had been there waiting for them it would have been a fine plan. As it was, I stopped, told Brendan to hop out and go to the merry-go-round and find Audra (he has been playing in that park for two years at least) and I would bring Everett. Maggie jumped out with him. STOP! NO! I couldn't stop or turn around and they went skipping off across the street and into the park.
Right then FULL. BLOWN. PANIC struck because I realized I wasn't in small town Okeene, America where everyone is safe and everyone knows everyone else and their kids. I was in Oklahoma City where bad things happen and kids disappear and traffic is horrendous. JESUS H. SEBASTION CHRIST!. What had I done? How would I ever fix this? I would have to move far, far away from my children and never see any of them again. I would have to jump off a bridge.
My heart rate jumped to way too high. I drove quickly around the loop and parked. We jumped out of the car and started to high-tail it over there to find them. I was praying out loud that Audra was there and that no one would pick them up, do bad things to their little innocent bodies, and make them disappear. I heard honking and saw Audra pulling up behind me to park. WHAT?????!!!
OH MY GOD, no one was at the merry-go-round to meet B and M. I had abandoned a six year old girl in the care of a nine year old brother (albeit one with a bat in his hand) in a ball park swarming with people I did not know. There would be no place in heaven for me, that was a done deal.
I took E. and Zane and we hot-footed it down the road, across traffic (cue cars stopping and people making gestures), across the grassy knoll and down the hill toward the meeting place. There they were, tossing the ball back and forth. Waiting where they were supposed to be. I thought I might be having a heart attack and a panic attack rolled into one. I reached them and grabbed B into a bear hug and told him I was sooooo happy they were safe, that he had been so responsible, and that I would never drop them off anywhere, ever again. (Well, yeah, because I'm sure his mother will never leave them with me again. ) He said he was okay, he wasn't worried, but he did get a little nervous when there were no adults with them. (Yeah, no kidding. Me too.)
Audra caught up with us and she too was in a royal panic and looked at me like I had lost my ever lovin' mind. "What were you thinking?" were her exact words.
I was thinking about when I was six years old and my mom dropped me off places or sent me skipping down the street to the library alone, in our nice little quiet town out on the prairie.
And then I remembered my dad's aunt, Maud Drake Bingham, who lost her leg when she got it caught in the spokes of a wagon wheel when she was 8 years old. She had driven to town, alone, in the wagon to pick up supplies for the family. That was something that was expected of her, as an eight year old in circa 1905. The horses had spooked and had taken off as she climbed back up onto the seat. When they finally located a doctor, he amputated the leg while she lay on the kitchen table. Eight years old. She went on to become a famous American stage actress and performed for kings and queens all over the world. These kids come from good pioneer stock. I should have known they would be fine.