Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Second Daughter Disappears: Fort Lauderdale 1996

When we first moved to Fort Lauderdale--after our stint at the Riverside Hotel--we rented a house on SE 10th Ave in Victoria Park. It was a decent small house in a very nice neighborhood with a wonderful Montessori elementary school (VSY) a few blocks away. We had a horrendous landlord--but that's a different story.
The house--like a lot in South Florida--did not have a laundry room. Many homes had hook-ups in little covered spaces in carports. Our house had hook-ups for a washer and dryer in a too-small garage attached to the house, though there was no door from the garage that led into the house. So, to do laundry one had to go out the front door, down the little steps to the walk, go to the driveway and to the garage door, open the garage door, and there was the washer and dryer. It was a bit of a process, especially when you take into account the carrying of dirty or clean clothes.
By September or October of that year, we had life pretty well settled after the move from Illinois. Fru was working at Sun Trust on Las Olas, I had classes at night at FIU in North Miami, First Daughter was attending kindergarten at VSY (Virginia Shuman Young) and Second Daughter stayed home with me during the day while I took care of all the mundane chores of regular life in America.
But one weekday, while I was doing the chore of laundry and only Second Daughter was home, I went about my usual routine, toting baskets of clothes back and forth out the front door, leaving it and the garage door open whilst doing so. But then, then I go back into the house and Second Daughter is nowhere around. I look and look and call her name--but no sight of her, no answer to my calls.
This is strange. We had never had issues of our daughter's whereabouts, of them wandering or running or hiding, of not answering when we called . . . I looked all over the two-bedroom house, went back out the front door and checked the garage, checked the yard, the whole while calling her name. Now I began to panic. Where was she? She was three years old at the time, but why would she run off? Had someone taken her? I held my thoughts together, but I was beginning to think some very dark things. It made no sense. I had been out in the garage for only minutes, if she had come out she knew what I was doing, where I was, she would have come to me . . . Where was she?
I was upset now.
Then, on one of my trips back inside and around the house, I heard her. I went into the girls' room. I looked in their sliding-door closet. There Second Daughter was. She had been hiding. She was giggling, smiling. I yanked her out of there.
I was so angry. I had been so worried. She--of course--did not fully understand this. I gave her a quick spanking, told her never to do such a thing again, to not hide and always answer when I called. She felt bad. I felt bad for swatting her. I was also relieved, to say the least. I calmed and talked to her, explained why I was so upset. She never did such a thing again.
But that's how it is having a child, having children. You create a thing that is so important to you, that you love beyond anything, beyond your spouse or yourself--you'd easily give your own life for your child. And this thing--this child--is a fragile thing, is something that needs constant monitoring, attention, affection, education, love. And if this thing were taken from you it would quite literally ruin your life.
That's the scary part about having a child.
If you lost them, life would be irrevocably altered--for the worse.
But for me, it had just been a game. She had only been hiding, playing a trick on me that she must of learned at some friend's house (there were other little kids right on our street that she was already good friends with--kids First Daughter's age, too--which was another good thing about renting that house in Victoria Park) or via a TV show or kids movie. It was not a crisis. It was not irrevocable. It was but a temporary panic.
And I never want to go through that again.

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