Big surprise at picnic

IT was a minute, perhaps not even that. But in that small space of time, my world tilted sideways, my heart was in my throat and I could barely squeak out my son’s name.

We were at a “Teddy Bear’s Picnic”, a fundraiser for a community kindergarten. There were rides, food, a teddy bears hospital, play dough stalls, face painting, reptile shows, entertainment from dance schools and the (apparently well known) Silly Billy’s.

It was big, loud fun. And I, brave soul that I am, went it alone with the two kids and their teddy bears. I got to practice my pram-steering skills and taught my son how to cuddle strangers dressed as koalas, Dora and Elmo.

There were people everywhere, so I was relieved when I found a shady spot to park the pram and watch the Silly Billy’s perform. Feeding the baby some popcorn (unsalted by yours truly, the things we do…), my son raced down to the orange ‘hazard mesh’ fence put in place to keep the toddlers from swimming the moat and rushing their favourite Silly Billy on stage.

I got the camera out and filmed him jumping up and down to a kangaroo song. I noticed he was happily mimicking an older girl acting out the dance moves almost provocatively.

I put down the camera and gave my baby some more popcorn that she was contorting to reach out for from my hip. Satisfied she wouldn’t choke and would be busy for a few more minutes, I looked back at my son.

He wasn’t there.

The following thoughts/emotions all happened within about 30 seconds of each other: there’s no pandemonium, so he hasn’t scaled the orange fence and gone under the water; scan the kids properly, look for him properly, don’t panic, why didn’t I put him in bright colours today, do I go down there, what if he’s trying to find me and the pram, I’m going down, do I yell out, will he even hear me, has anyone noticed my panic?!

Now, I’m turning in circles halfway between the pram and the fence, calling out uselessly over the music and kids screaming. I’m about to start crying when I see a familiar little face wandering down the hill toward the pram.

I almost buckle with relief. He doesn’t seem upset, merely perturbed that he couldn’t find us immediately. I couldn’t rouse on him, after all, it was like the tide when you swim in the ocean. He surged down the fenceline in the melee and when he turned to come back to the pram, we were no longer behind him. But he had seen our pram and was walking back to it, when I saw him.

But I made one decision: to go and sit with him and the other screaming kids at the fence. I left my pram, my purse, the camera, the nappy bag, the balloons and toys we’d bought back in the shade,so it wouldn’t obscure other people’s view.

After all, those things can be replaced.

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