I was sitting at my desk this afternoon when I glanced at the clock and realized Elise would be getting off the bus any minute. J.C. typically meets her at the bus stop, but he hadn't touched base with me to let me know he was heading home which he often does. Then I remembered my manager had stopped by my office about an hour earlier to say he was leaving to go biking with J.C.. Putting two and two together left Elise getting off the bus by herself. We have conscientious neighbors who also meet their children at the bus stop and a very responsible bus driver, so I felt certain she would be taken care of if we weren't there. On my way out the door, I called one neighbor and left a message asking her if she could bring Elise home with her if J.C. wasn't at the bus stop. Then I rushed home. I got there about 10 minutes after the bus would have come by. I found Elise's backpack on the front porch. I looked in the garage, on the back porch, and yelled her name. She wasn't at the house, so I called the same neighbor I had called earlier. Nobody answered, and their car was not in the garage. I know they sometimes have after school activities, so I figured they had gone through the carpool line today before heading to ballet or choir. I ran to another neighbor's house whose children ride the bus, and they weren't home either. About this time, J.C. got home. He drove to another neighbor's house to look for her while I knocked on another door and called the one neighbor a third time. When I finally knocked on the door of someone who was home, as I tried to ask him if Elise was there, I fell apart in tears on his doorstep. He was on the phone, but immediately hung up and came outside to help me look for her. We both walked around the cul-de-sac yelling her name. It was like a nightmare... a really sick, awful, horrifying, wake-you-up-in-a-sweat nightmare... the kind that makes you run in your child's room to check on them in the middle of the night... but it wasn't night. I wasn't in bed. This wasn't a nightmare. It was my life.
You know that feeling when you lose sight of your child for an instant in a department store or on the playground... how your heart stops beating, and adrenaline floods your entire body? Try that on for size for 10 or 15 minutes. I felt sick, physically sick. I ran up to the porch to her backpack to see if she had left a note. Nothing. I went back in the house to check the answering machine. Nothing. I got ready to call the school in hopes of talking to the bus driver. If that hadn't panned out, I really didn't have any other ideas besides calling the police. My. Child. Is. Missing... mine... MY CHILD... MY FAULT... MISSING... an Amber Alert... My mind kept going there which just made me feel even more nauseated. I felt so helpless.
I really thought I might puke, but I had to keep looking. But where? Finally, J.C. called and said he had found her. She was at the home of the neighbor who I had called three times and left a message with who never answered the phone. The kids were playing and having a great time. The dad was busy lugging stuff in and out of the attic.
Elise had even left me a note in the mailbox telling me where she was. What a great kid...she didn't know I would be having a panic attack, but she knew I would check the mail... a perfectly logical, reasonable place to leave a note. If only logic and reason hadn't been ejected from my brain the minute I got home, I might have found her note.
She's home. She's safe. She's fine. I am not. I still haven't recovered. I know I shouldn't let my mind wander to the what ifs, but I'm not very good at controlling that. The what ifs make me even more sick.
This just rocked my world today. I want the day to end, and I want this out of my mind.