When she wasn’t where she was supposed to be which was 10 feet to my left, when I had circled around twice, when I retraced my steps again, when the well-meaning employee who stood by the door assured me that she was still in the building, when I circled around for the fourth time, when I began to realize she was NOT in the building, when I stepped outside, when her older sister began to panic, when I could feel my chest tightening, when I had to send her sister back inside to stand with a nice stranger, when my mind began to think words I would never say in her presence, when I could not see her in front of the building, when I could not see her at the side, when I found her standing next to our car, standing next to our car by herself, outside, down the stairs, along the sidewalk, across the parking lot, ACROSS THE PARKING LOT–BY HERSELF, when I saw her and screamed her name, when I saw the look of fear on her face–first of being alone and then upon hearing the shrillness of my voice of being in trouble, when I swooped her up, when I held her sobbing body in my arms, when I got nose-to-nose with her, when I impressed my fear upon her, when she impressed her fear upon me, when I returned for her sister, when I explained the “lost rules” again, when my throat began to unclinch, when my chest stopped hurting, when I began to be aware of the fact that I was in the presence of a few dozen other moms but I was the mom who lost her 3 year-old child, when I calmly took both daughters’ hands in my own untrembling hands, when I crossed the parking lot again and buckled them in, when I pulled out of that parking lot, I did not think about it again.
I did not because I could not. My mind just. would. not. consider: WHAT IF. That is the only reason I was able to keep breathing. I just hope it stays that way, because I could die a thousand emotional deaths if it starts to move again.