as my heart was so bruised over the whole situation. And then the Sandy Hook elementary school shootings happened and it made my heart even more tender. But I think I'm finally ready to admit what happened and to preface it by saying that I'm so grateful and lucky to have Portia. Don't get me wrong--I'm so lucky to have Bianca too, but this little story is one that had my head reeling with thoughts of losing Portia.
It all started at cello lessons. Portia has a hard time remembering to keep her feet planted firmly on the ground when she plays. Her teacher pulled out two quarters and put them under her heels and said if he didn't see those quarters for the rest of the lesson, she could keep them. Since that lesson, she would ask me to put coins under her heels during cello practice with the same agreement. I didn't mind it. And she started collecting her money until she had a dollar and then kept begging me to take her to the dollar store so she could buy something.
We had some time in South Jordan and I needed to pick up a book from the library there (Sorry, Highland City but your library isn't up to par) and I told Portia that we could stop at the Dollar Store over there by the library as well. As we were pulling into the parking lot, I asked Portia which she wanted to do first--the dollar store or the library--and she replied the dollar store. I was getting off the phone with Eric, asking about where the cheapest place to buy gas around his work was, when I parked the car right in front of the Dollar Tree. Bianca jumped out and made a mad-dash for the dollar store. (Kids love the dollar store--not sure why but I think it's because it's easier to persuade me to get them something when everything's so dang cheap.) Portia was getting out too and as she was, I jumped out of the car to hold the door so that it wouldn't ding the car next to us. She went to the sidewalk and I had to grab my purse and lock up the car. When I entered the Dollar Store, Bianca was studying some cozy socks near the front. She told me that Portia never came in. Of course she did, I said, and we started to go through the aisles trying to find her so I could prove Bianca wrong and that she could get to the toy aisle to finish up business so we could move on to the next thing on our to-do list.
After three times through the store and a check of the bathrooms, I started panicking. Then I checked the stores next door--a dance studio and a mattress store. And I began to wonder, could someone have snatched Portia in the short, distracted time I was turning off the phone and grabbing my purse from the car? When I asked the cashiers about a missing little girl, they were not helpful. Just a shrug, a no, and they continued checking everyone out. I called Eric (he said he'd come right over from work) and then I called the police. In eleven years of motherhood, I've never had to do this. Never. I can't remember what I said, just something about not being able to find my child and I just didn't know what to do. The police came and there were officers everywhere. The woman police officer I was following around said her entire force was there, about 10 officers, all looking for Portia. Then I was the tear-streaked crazy mother following behind her, going from store to store, searching frantically. I know what all those people were thinking and it drove me mad that there I was, someone who prided myself on being a good mom, and being looked at with scorn as people thought, "You can't even watch your own kid?"
Eric and Bianca were now going to Menchie's (another of my kids' favorites) and Harmon's and everywhere along this very long strip mall. I just couldn't believe Portia would venture out there on her own. I pictured her stuffed into some strange car and couldn't fathom the myriad things that could be happening to my baby. I began to break down, not being able to see where this was going to end.
And that's when my police officer said, "We think we found her." She put me in the back of her cop car (a first for me) and we drove to the library, all the way at the end of the strip mall. I think it's at least a good quarter mile from the Dollar Store with at least two through streets. And that's where we found Portia--hanging out with a police officer there, looking not so upset at all. It's funny how you can want to hug and kiss your child, while simultaneously want to beat her for putting you through such a heart-wrenching half hour. And what was she thinking, walking all that way by herself?!? She informed me that she did let the librarian know she couldn't find her mom, but what good is a loudspeaker through a library when your mom is a quarter mile away frantically searching the aisles of the dollar store? Eric and I joke that Portia has a built-in compass, something neither Bianca nor I were blessed with, and maybe she's a little too independent knowing exactly where she was going. But didn't she say the dollar store first? Aghhhh!
At the end of it all, I have never been so relieved to have Portia with me. We ended up having to reschedule cello lessons that night to an hour later and I found it ironic that here we were, going full circle--ending right back where we started, at cello lessons.
At least there was a happy ending. And we had a nice long talk on staying together. Always. Even if we think we know where we're going.