It was Mother's Day 1992. I was 36 years old and the mama of four young children ages 13, 11, 4 and 3.
I was wrapping up the day after hosting a house full of family. This day had been loud and fun and messy. Adults chatting and children laughing chasing up and down the hall--doors opening, doors slamming, messes to mop up in the kitchen, drinks to refill, snacks to replenish.
A typical Mother's Day with a growing family.
In a quiet moment, I realized the youngest, my three year old son Taylor, was not in the family room playing in the pile of Legos, Tinkertoys and Hot Wheel cars and he wasn't with his brother or sisters.
Where was he? When had anyone last seen him?
After a quick search of the house, and realizing our golden retriever, Sophie, was also MIA, we concluded that Taylor had gone outside with her and the two of them were probably traipsing around our rural property on their own adventure. I remember searching over the two acres of white-rail fenced land and yelling for both of them. Panic and fear grew stronger with every call out to them and getting in return, silence. No little boy laughter, no barking dog.
My heart pounded hard as I jumped into my green van and drove slowly down the long narrow quarter-mile asphalt drive, peering over the steering wheel, the pair of empty car seats behind me in the back seat, my eyes scanning left and right across the neighbors' yards for any sign of Taylor or Sophie.
I prayed hard. Tears threatened to spill, but I blinked them back and exhaled a sigh of relief that he'd not fallen in my neighbor's pool as I drove past. He was three. He couldn't swim. He was my baby. My brain cycled through scenarios. All of our neighbors knew him. Surely he'd be spotted. Had someone taken him? He was my b-a-b-y. My mind could go no further into that darkness.
I wanted to drive faster, but I needed to go as slow as I could, to keep an eye out across the acreage of each property for any sign of either of them.
Five minutes felt like hours, as I rounded the final turn and followed the avocado grove lined section leading down to the dirt road where several driveways converged.
I leaned to look through the rows of trees to my left and glimpsed the top of Sophie's wagging tail as she romped through the heavy cover of fallen leaves. I slammed on the brakes, put the car in park and jumped out. I could see Taylor behind her, laughing and running, not a care in the world.
"Sophie" I called out and she bounded toward me. I slid the van's side panel door open and she jumped inside.
Taylor was still running behind her, now toward me, smiling from ear to ear with joy, then tripped and fell face first in the leaves. He got back up, but now he was crying.
"You're fine. Brush off and come on and get in the van" I called to him, relieved I'd found him safe but now aggravated he'd scared everyone by leaving the property.
He wiped both hands off on his shirt, still crying hard. Suddenly, I saw blood soaked the front of his shirt. I ran to him and yanked his shirt up. Nothing. His little belly didn't have a mark on it. I grabbed both of his little hands at the same time and turned them palms side up...one revealed an ugly jagged gash across it. He'd fallen on a broken piece of metal sprinkler line in the grove and was bleeding--a lot.
My heart began pounding hard again. I scooped him up and grabbed a towel from the back seat and wrapped it around his hand and told him to hold it there, buckled him into his car seat and drove him back to the house.
Once his hand had been cleaned up, I immediately knew we were spending the rest of Mother's Day in the Emergency Room. So after securing the dog and leaving our 13 year old in charge of her siblings, instructing them to sit tight and watch a movie, we headed to the local hospital.
During our predictably long wait, Taylor kept uncovering and inspecting his wound, then would thrust his palm in my face (and anyone else's face nearby) saying, "See my boo-boo?" Not everyone was as impressed with it as he was (considering the 'ick' factor), and I had to keep reminding him to leave the bandage on until the doctor could look at it.
That night after we got back home and all the kiddos were tucked in, I crawled into my own bed, tired and relieved that my day had ended with a much better outcome than I'd feared earlier.
It was the close of my Mother's Day and my sweet youngest son's adventure made it a day I would always look back on with a thankful heart.