From Chicken Soup for the Mother of Preschooler's Soul

On the Run

Some are kissing mothers and some are scolding mothers, but it is love just the same.

Pearl Buck

“Three blind mice. Three blind mice. See how they run.” Forget the blind mice. I had three little boys and, well, I knew how they ran. All over the place. Okay, the littlest guy mostly crawled. But that was enough to make life pretty hectic. I didn’t have a moment to myself.

Dirty diapers. Skinned knees. Spilled juice. And the incessant motor sounds of cars, trucks and motorcycles that a house full of little boys make. Sometimes, our household felt like a Saturday Night Live version of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. The stress was getting to me. The insignificance of it all was almost killing me.

Such was the state of my mind one afternoon as I loaded all three boys and drove into the heart of Surrey, British Columbia, to Helen’s apartment. We loaded her and her wheelchair into our ancient Honda Accord and headed to a shopping center—handicapped accessible, but in a rough area of the city.

We drifted from shop to shop. The baby slept in the stroller and Nate held tightly to my pants, but my oldest, six-year-old Josh, dashed ahead to the next store.

“Mom,” he yelled from just inside the door, “we gotta get these police hats. They’re really, really cool.” He grabbed a black helmet from a wire bin and stuck it on his head.

When he saw the hats, Nate let loose of my pant leg, put his thumb in his mouth and reached for one. While I saw to a suddenly crying baby, Helen wheeled near the bin and rifled through it. And Josh continued his enthusiastic campaign to purchase his hat. The baby’s loud cries competed with Josh’s running commentary for my attention.

Helen glanced up. “Hey, where’s Nate?”

I looked down, half expecting to see him holding my pant leg. For once, he was not there. Alarmed, I shoved the stroller—and Josh—into Helen’s care while I scanned the small novelty shop. Nate was nowhere.

“Did you see a blond boy holding a London bobby hat?” I asked the girl behind the counter. Even before she finished shaking her head, I raced out the door.

Frantic, I searched store to store, begging for news of little Nate. One of the clerks called security. My desperation was chilling.

“Anybody see a little boy? Blond hair? Green eyes? Anybody? Anybody!

But Nate was gone. Vanished. There were no best-case scenarios. Someone had snatched him, and they were probably already out of the building. My mind raced with imagined details.

What about locking down the mall? What about . . . ? There was no time to waste. I turned back to the store. While Helen wheeled up and down the halls, I ran with the stroller and Josh, searching wildly for my little lost boy. It was my darkest of nightmares.

Nathan. Gone. I desperately wanted to turn back the clock and change the outcome. If only, if only, if only pounded through my mind with each slap of the stroller’s wheels.

“Hey, Mom,” Josh shouted as he jerked at the stroller, “mall police.”

I slowed as we approached a group of security guards huddled together. One spoke rapidly into a walkie-talkie. Another held a black object. My eyes widened, and my legs wobbled. Tears spilled down my cheeks.

It was a toy bobby hat.

“We found this a few moments ago,” a security guard said. “Do you recognize it?”

I nodded, unable to speak. Josh reached up to hold my hand.

“We’ve called the police,” the guard assured me, “and . . .”

Someone touched my shoulder. “Excuse me,” a cheerful voice said.

Choking down sobs, I turned to face a middle-aged woman—with a chubby, blond, green-eyed Nate in her arms.

“I found him in the food court at the other side of the mall,” she said in a neighborly tone, “calling for his mommy. He pointed. . . .”

I didn’t hear the rest of her explanation. My sight, my hearing, all my senses were filled with the presence of the little boy I thought I had lost. He leaned toward me, wrapped his arms around my neck and buried his face in my T-shirt.

“Thank you,” I mouthed through tears of gratefulness, “thank you so much.”

My Good Samaritan smiled a warm, knowing look that had to have come from her own journey through motherhood. How long ago was it that I had felt so stressed with the busyness of raising small children? A lifetime ago? Eons? See how they run, see how they run, indeed. My perspective now changed. The baby in the stroller; the little boy tugging at my sleeve; the blond child clutched in my arms. Did ever you see such a sight in your life?

And I hugged them to me, these three busy little boys.

Renee Hixson

“Is this one of those times that I’m supposed to hold your hand or disappear?!”

Reprinted by permission of CartoonStock Ltd.

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