Every year on the last day of school our town has the Pet and Doll Parade. The kids dress up in costumes and/or dress up their pets. I don't know what it's like these days, but back then, the parade began at one end of 4th Street at the oldest school building in the city - the original high school which is now a middle school. They paraded about 8-10 blocks to a nice park, where they were then served ice cream on a stick.
I think this was the second time we had done the parade. My in-laws and I dropped the kids off, then headed to a spot toward the end of the route to watch them go by, then rush to the park to join them. Never having been much good with costumes, they just came up with whatever and had a great time. We didn't dress up Fritzie, the dachschund - I think we did that the year before.
Kristen is in the green dress (mine), sunglasses, and large yellow hat. (Editorial note - I just clicked and enlarged these pictures and discovered that sometime in the last 30 years, somebody circled themselves!)
Kev is beside her with the baseball uniform. I can't for the life of me remember where we got that.
When we got to the park, I saw Kristen standing there with her ice cream. I asked her where Kev was. She was 5, if I recall. She looked up at me with those big innocent blue eyes and said, "I don't know. I just turned around to say, 'Isn't this good ice cream?' and he wasn't there!"
Yikes - there were 900 kids in the park. No sign of Kevin anywhere. Talk about instant panic. It hadn't been long before this that Adam had been taken from that Sears store - the little boy whose father then began America's Most Wanted, and whose murderer has just been identified all these years later. My first thought was that he looked so cotton-pickin' cute that day, somebody could just grab him and take him home to be theirs.
The next thought was that we had walked over to the parade from our former house, which my in-laws had bought when they moved out here. To get to the park, we had to walk over a little stream. We ran over there, relieved to find that it was well protected from a child falling off the little bridge.
An older couple from our church lived across the street from the park. We went there to ask to use their phone (LONG before cell phones) and called the police. As I was sticking my head in the police car giving them the vital statistics of my adorable little blonde boy, a call came in from the parade coordinator - Harvey Ruegsegger. He had just received a call from someone in the school office. Kevin was sitting on the counter in the office, having a Mountain Dew with the cheerleaders, who had helped with the parade. It seems that he had decided to head back to where he had last seen me - 3 years old, walking by himself, crossing the busy street, and heading back to the school, 10 blocks away, with his little bat slung over his shoulder.
I cannot describe the relief. I can't even remember if I went down there or if they brought him back to the park. The band director had spotted him, picked him up, and took him to the school office. I actually ran into him at the 4th of July celebration recently and thanked him again.
There were some ramifications that lasted for awhile - Kev became very clingy and shy. He didn't want his picture taken. He didn't want to be the center of attention. He didn't want to go to the county fair parade later that summer - the idea of a parade was too daunting - he thought he had to be in it, I guess.
I had been thinking of taking a little part-time job in a school cafeteria to make a little money and try to ease him into being away from me for just a couple hours a day. When Kev found out about that possibility, he said, "Mommy, can't you just stay home and be my mommy?" Nuff said.
The next year he did go to preschool two mornings a week, which eased him into "Show and Tell" and class pictures and prepared him for kindergarten the next year.
He got lost again as he got older, lost in a way only God could find him. Thank God, He did.
Totally and completely changing the subject - please remember to pray for Kristen at Smoke Free Mama as she begins her nicotine-free life! Thank you!