I just had a nearly perfect weekend, you guys. Like, oh my god nearly perfect. The weather was gorgeous; Saturday everyone piled over at our house, and we played lawn games and made shish kebobs, and had adult beverages and let the kiddos toast marshmallows in front of the firepit. And Sunday the weather was still perfect, so we colored Easter eggs outside. Just sayin’ – it’s going to be my happy place all week.
But there was one slight, teeny tiny little snag. Not a snag, so much, as a ripple. And not really a ripple, but a bunch of drama.
The girls popped into the house after church a little late, but Papa had told me that they were having lunch at church, so I wasn’t too concerned. And then I heard all that had gone on. One of the kids there, a little boy who is Gracie’s age (but not “little” so much as he’s my height and nearly my size) walked out of church during the festivities after the service without telling anyone. My mouth kind of gaped open when the girls told me. “Like, left-left?” I asked. “YES!” they answered, a bit in shock still. “Without telling anyone!”
“Without telling anyone?!” I was starting to sound like a parrot.
“NO!!” the girls answered. “He wrote a note and left it on a chair, but that was it! It just said he was walking home!”
I thought a hundred things at once: how panicked the grown-ups must have felt, how shaken up the girls still seemed, gobsmacked that this child – who has a good head on his shoulders – would have just walked away in defiance of everything he’d been taught about safety and stranger danger.
I asked the girls why he would have done something like that, in between declaring my surprise that he didn’t tell a grown-up. Turns out that some other little boys were teasing our escapee about having a girlfriend. And our escapee got really mad. Our escapee escaped.
I have no idea how long it was before anyone noticed. The girls weren’t part of the plan (“Why didn’t you tell anyone?!” “We didn’t find out until we were looking for him!”), but we did talk about how I hoped they stood up for their friend when he was being teased. (They did.)(Although they couldn’t explain why having a girlfriend was a bad thing. That was just my own curiosity because good lord.) Bullying is something we talk about a lot, for good reason. Because it can happen anywhere – even at church. Even among a really small, closeknit group of kids who have known each other for years. Even when you know Grandma is going to find out and be out of her mind.
Because eventually, the grown-ups did find out. They scoured the woods behind the church and the church hall itself to make sure he wasn’t hiding. His sister, who is a few months older than Bee-girl, was out of her mind with worry. Gracie and Bee said she was crying because she thought she wasn’t going to see her brother ever again. They said Grandma was crying because she was so worried. Papa and another grown-up left “to drive around the city looking for him.” And eventually, they had to call the boy’s parents to tell him that he was missing.
Can you even imagine? Can you imagine getting that phone call?
The note said he was walking home, so his mom drove the seven-mile route they usually drive, and his dad drove the “back way” that they sometimes use. The girls said that the boy was walking along the major six-lane road that was the “back way”, and that when he saw his dad’s car, he tried to hide behind a tree. It didn’t work because the escapee is only eleven, and so what was once lost was then found. His dad brought him back to church and made him apologize to the grown-ups and collected his sister who had melted into a heap of tears.
I stared at the girls as their story came to an end. And then, rather predictably, I asked them, “What do you think would happen to you guys if you ever tried anything like that?” Yep, punished for life, you betcha. Gracie said the boy isn’t allowed to go to church anymore, and I let her say it, but I’m not holding my breath. For one, it’s church; how do you ban someone from church? Secondly, Grandma practically runs the church and Grandma isn’t the grudge-holding, fire-and-brimstone, thee-shall-be-punished kind. I could see him being forced to stay with a grown-up at all times, at least for awhile, but I can’t see him being cast out. But I held my tongue because Gracie seemed to think it was a fitting punishment and I didn’t want her to think I was soft on running away.
So that was our bit of drama for Sunday afternoon. I’m glad the boy wasn’t stolen or run over or lost or any of the dozens of other scary scenarios that could have happened. It was a rather mild after-school special when all was said and done. But that’s kind of how we like them – tales with a good moral, but no lasting consequences.
All’s well that ends well. Just don’t make me ever have to punish you for life, sweet girls o’ mine.