I went to a conference today, and although I felt a fair amount of guilt at abandoning my husband with the kids on a Saturday, I chalked it up to professional development and went anyway. It was interesting and useful and everything, and when I came home, it was to an empty house. There was a note that said Trevor and the kids had gone to friends’. I headed over there.
These particular friends live on the next block, with maybe a dozen houses between us, around a corner. In fact, if you walked through our back yard, climbed the fence, and walked though that neighbour’s yard, you would be almost directly across the street from my destination. I, needless to say, walked over (aside from wasting $1/litre in gas, it meant we could both drink).
This is a family with whom we have become quite friendly. Our boys are about 6 weeks apart in age; we have similar interests and jobs and toys. The kids are in the same daycare. We often spend Saturday afternoon and evening sharing playtime and a meal. And a few bottles of whatever.
Tonight, when I arrived, it was a nice day, and the kids were in the back playing. Trevor was clutching a beer and looking pale. I asked how his day was, figuring it was a routine single-parent day with the monsters. He subtly suggested I come in the house so he could relate a story. Oh-oh, I thought.
Apparently, this was Trevor’s second beer, and he looked as if he deserved it. I was already feeling guilty, so the fact that he was drinking on the evening before a proposed 12 mile run gave me cause to believe that this was a story of concern.
It turns out, that when it was time to go to our friends’ house, Jack offered to call and tell them they were on their way (the telephone is a novelty, Jack having recently acquired enough understanding of manners to earn the privelege of using it). He spoke to Mrs. Friend, and reported that since he could run as fast as Dash (from The Incredibles), he would be over shortly. Trevor loaded a few bottles of beer into a backpack and put it on Jack. Trevor fussed around and loaded some stuff into Aimee’s backpack, put the appetizer he had made into a bag, and organized everything to leave the house.
When he ws ready to leave the house, he called the kids. Aimee dutifully and promptly reported to the front door and put on her shoes. Jack did not.
Trevor called. Jack remained absent.
Trevor looked through the house. Jack was nowhere to be found. Keep in mind that Jack is 5, and in this age of abductions and predators and other horrible things, has never been anywhere without a parent or close caregiver.
Trevor looked in the back yard. No Jack.
Trevor polled the next-door neighbours. No one had seen him.
Trevor started to worry.
Trevor ran to the corner and looked. No Jack.
The neighbour got on his bike and rode the other way to check houses on the other side. No Jack.
Now Trevor was getting frantic. A few minutes had passed and several more loud hollers into the depths of the house produced no Jack. He desperately asked the next-door neighbour if he could leave Aimee there and she told him to go. He jumped in the car and drove around the block to our friends’ house. No Jack on the way.
He pulled into their driveway, ran in, and practically yelled, “Is Jack here?”. There was Jack, at the top of their stairs, looking down at Trevor, blinking innocently.
Mrs. Friend took one look at Trevor and realized what was wrong. She said, “Oh. You didn’t know he was here.” “No,” said Trevor. “I didn’t”. Jack had run, like Dash, around the bay to his friend’s place, made it unseen into the house, and was playing innocently inside while his daddy panicked.
Jack got a bit of an earful from his hysterical parent, and is, as a result, temporarily not speaking to Daddy.
Trevor returned the car to our driveway, reported to the neighbours that Jack was safe, collected Aimee, and walked over to the Friends’, where he proceeded to drink beer quite rapidly while his heart rate went from “charge the paddles to 360” back down to normal.
Mr. Friend, who walked in from the grocery store at the same time as Jack strolled into his house, figured Trevor and Aimee were right behind. “I heard the clink-clink of beer bottles and there he was,” he said. “I was glad he’d brought beer,” he added, winking.
By the time I arrived, Trevor had stopped shaking. He told me the story. “We’ll laugh about this tomorrow,” I said.
“Not likely,” he said, and opened another drink.
The whole event lasted less than ten minutes. Trevor just sighed again, across the room. I think it will be longer than a day before he can laugh about it. The little monster.