SCENE: Friday morning, around 10am. Mayflower Beach in Dennis, Massachusetts. High tide.
CHARACTERS: 4 adults (Sarah & Hubby; Jay & Mary), 5 little boys.
ACT I: The 2 families schlep all their gear from the cars onto the beach: beach bags, boogie boards, skim boards, coolers, unbrellas, beach chairs, beach toys. The adults are loaded down like pack mules and each of the 5 children are required to carry something as they toddle along like little ducklings behind their parents. The beach is already crowded because it's high tide, so there's not a lot of prime real estate. They find a spot, a little to the left of where they entered, plunk down their stuff, and the 4 parents start setting up the umbrellas, chairs, etc. while the children already begin begging for snacks.
Act II: Barely a few minutes later.
Sarah (startled): Where's Baby?!
Hubby: Are you kidding me?!
Baby's name is called. No Baby in sight. Sarah scans the ocean. She just KNOWS that Baby wouldn't be in there.
Meanwhile, Hubby begins to walk down the beach to the left, while Mary heads to the right. Jay stays there with the children who are now all calling Baby's name and causing quite a commotion.
Sarah feels like she's having an out-of-body experience. Like she's looking down at herself-there on the beach-with her 3 year old missing. Gone.
She runs directly to the nearby lifeguard tower and gushes:
"My 3 year old is missing his name is Baby he has brown hair and brown eyes he's wearing a blue shirt with a red crab on it and a navy blue bathing suit with a lizard on it he has a boogie board attached to his wrist."
The lifeguard springs into action, walkie-talkie crackling as he begins to bark instructions into it. He puts his hand on Sarah's shoulder and begins to walk with her back towards her stuff.
Sarah is still calm. Eerily so. Running through her head over and over like a broken record are the same 4 words: This. Can't. Be. Happening.
Before they even make it back to Jay and the children (who are by now YELLING and SCREAMING Baby's name), a woman approaches Sarah and asks, "Did he have a red crab on his shirt? I just saw him down that way." as she points in the direction Hubby had headed.
Sarah feels like all eyes on the beach are directly on her.
Act III: Suddenly, in the distance, she sees them. Hubby carrying Baby, enveloping him in a massive bear hug. Baby's head on his shoulder. Boogie board still velcroed to his wrist. The lifeguard squeezes Sarah's shoulder reassuringly and turns back to head to his post.
Relief washes through Sarah's entire body. She feels limp, almost as if she's boneless.
Hubby gently lifts Baby over to Sarah. Baby's little body is heaving with sobs. He mournfully looks at her with his chocolate eyes leaking fat tear drops and yelps,
"I couldn't found you."
Hubby is crying behind his sunglasses. Sarah and Baby settle into a beach chair and as she's holding him snug against her body, she finally breaks down, her tears splashing onto his little round head.
Apparently, what happened was that once we found our spot, Baby just kept walking. I remember seeing him with us as I dropped all my gear. And then he was gone. Just like that. In an instant. With 4 adults RIGHT THERE.
Hubby found him pretty far down the beach. Past the next lifeguard tower. A woman (a mother, I presume) was holding his hand as he was sobbing forlornly, looking for us. (Just typing that makes me tear up.)
I don't think the entire ordeal, from beginning to (glorious) end, was more than 5 minutes. But it sure felt like an eternity.
The "what-ifs" are what keep me awake at night now, days later. There are too many to list.
Needless to say, it was a fairly somber beach day, the rest of that Friday.
Little Boy Lost