We are arriving at the last week of school. We survived another year. Kinda.
Joey's school has a big after-school party the Friday before school ends. Joey was really excited about it, and insisted he wanted to go. Ever been to a school party? Well, for ours, there's a basic set-up. They have a moonbounce outside, in the central courtyard. This may sound like a good idea, until you realize there is one moonbounce for an entire school of about 1000 kids. And their siblings. Right. They also set up a bunch of chalk in that courtyard, so that kids can write or draw on the pavements, which is as good an idea as the single moonbounce for 1000 kids is bad. Inside, they have three different crafts set up for kids to do, a dance floor with lots of very loud music and flashy lights, and a table with drinks and snacks (parents are asked to bring a box of drinks or a box of snacks as the "entrance fee" to the party, and that works really well). This year, we also had a cakewalk (well, a cupcake walk) in a side room. All in all, as school parties go, Joey's school does a really decent job of putting one on.
Unless, of course, you are autistic and sound-sensitive and heat-sensitive. Then it could be a little tricky.
I, like an idiot, bowed to my child's repeated requests to attend this event, and took he and his brother to the party. I wasn't a complete idiot, though. I fed them before we went. I did my best to have them all regulated and ready to go. Really.
It started out not too bad. The only places to sit were the lunch tables, which have those itty bitty round seats, and I am too fat to fit (sorry, folks, that is the truth. There was only one free chair available, and since I fell and killed a knee, I started to sit in it- until someone started yelling from across the room, "That's mine! That's mine!" It was a lady who was older and rounder than me, I guessed someone's grandmother come to watch the fun, and ceded the seat (after all, if it was my mom, I'd want her to have a chair, too).
That's right. I went to this highly potentially explosive event, by myself, with two sound-sensitive boys and a bad knee. You know this isn't going to turn out well, right? What was I thinking?
Well, it seemed to be going swimmingly. The boys were dancing, having a lot of fun, and I don't think I've smiled so wide in weeks. I would have danced with them, except for my knee. Then Dance Contest time arrived. The DJs played a "practice" line dancing song, then they went with another one for the contest. All seemed to be going great, the boys were having fun and dancing...
Life has a funny way of turning on a dime for us. They were picking winners (which, to be honest, is mostly done at random) and Andy was asking me if he could go outside and get in the moonbounce line. There were plenty of adults we knew out there, I was standing where I could see that line, so I agreed, and he bounced happily off. I turned back to the dancing children.
Where was Joey?
He was gone.
I glanced out at the moonbounce and courtyard, but he wasn't there. I peeked into the cakewalk room, as he loves the music teacher and loves cupcakes. No Joey. I checked the dance floor again. No Joey. I started moving though the cafe-gym, scanning for him. No Joey.
Now, at our school, we have three top people to talk to. We have a principal, a vice-principal, and a person who is called the "principal's assistant" who is kind of a second vice-principal. This assistant person was welcoming families at the door and handing out glowsticks. He is also very familiar with my son. I saw him gesticulating at me, and my heart went to water. Those motions could only mean that Joey had gone out that door.
I believe the man said something like, "I thought he was going to the car" as I whipped by him, but when I looked, Joey wasn't at the car. Nor was he in the parking lot. Another moment, and I broke into a run- he was beyond the close lot, on the sidewalk toward the farther lot and the road that leads out to the major state highway, and he was moving at his pretty steady bolt-trot. The one no one thinks is fast until you realize he's gone.
When the doctor said, "stay off your knee," I don't think he meant "do a hard run for a quarter mile to catch your son."
Folks, I was fortunate. God was looking out for me. Angels exist. And this time, they materialized into the shape of our friends, Joey's best bud D and his mom. They had arrived and had to park in that far lot, and were walking towards the school. They turned the corner of the walk just as Joey arrived to that point. Even at a hard run, I was not even close to catching him; but D's mom knew to stop him, and managed the feat (which is not an easy one when Joey is in full bolt).
The trigger? He didn't win the dance contest. In a single second, we had gone from brilliantly happy to devastated bolting. I had taken my eyes off him just long enough for my other child to ask me a question. It happens that fast. If D and his mom had not appeared, I could easily have lost him; he would certainly have made it to the road, and probably the highway, before I could have caught him.
It happens that fast.
So I hope you'll forgive me if I start blogging about knee recovery, followed by serious weightloss and then running training. Someone's got to be able to catch this child before we have a serious catastrophe.