Troy and Garrett were gone and Matthew and I were getting ready to meet them. Matthew had been, quite literally, rolling his head around in the dirt (don't ask) and needed to take a shower. He hopped in, soaped up, rinsed off, hopped out, and got dressed. We still had about a half hour before we needed to leave. I was upstairs and, when I didn't hear him talking to himself and/or the dog and/or the cat and/or inanimate objects, I assumed he'd gone back outside and was hoping his explorations would not include once again rolling his head around in the dirt.
Matthew can entertain himself with just sticks and his own imagination for hours at a time so, when the half hour was up, I didn't think anything of the fact that I hadn't heard from him. I assumed he was creating grand stories in the backyard or that he was on his bike. He knows his boundaries and he's very good at letting me know if he's going to go to a friend's house (both of our next door neighbors also have kindergartners). I grabbed my purse and headed down the stairs.
In my attempt to locate the six-year-old, I first opened the back door and hollered into the yard, "Matthew?" There was no answer. I opened the door leading into the garage and called out, "Matthew?" Nothing. I scanned the garage. His bike, scooter and skateboard were all right there where they belonged. I walked through the garage and surveyed the front yard. He wasn't in sight.
"MATTHEW!" I yelled from the edge of the garage. "MATTHEW? WHERE ARE YOU?" I heard nothing in response. It was cold out and our neighborhood was dead silent. Just across the street is a short little lane that bends sideways and ends in a cul-de-sac. The boys often ride bikes around the circle. I knew he didn't have his bike but I thought I'd check anyway to be sure he wasn't on some adventure down the little road. I walked until I could see all of it. He wasn't there.
Anxiety began to rise in my chest. How long has he been gone? About thirty minutes. I answered myself. Thirty minutes is a long time. If someone drove by and snatched him, they could be halfway to Provo by now. Calm down. What if I never see my son again? I'm very dramatic. I also react very calmly to situations but often immediately overreact on the inside.
I stopped at the neighbor's. I rang the doorbell. Dogs barked but no one came to the door. It didn't look like the neighbors on the other side were home either. I screamed Matthew's name several times. Nothing. The world was silent and the six-year-old was gone.
Is he hiding from me? Is he missing? How long should I wait to call the police. His kidnapper is inching closer to Provo or Wendover or Park City or Ogden. THE KIDNAPPER COULD BE HEADED IN A MYRIAD OF DIRECTIONS. Canada. Mexico. I don't know...
I decided to check to make sure he wasn't hiding in the house, laughing hysterically at our little game. I headed back through the garage and, as I passed the van I wondered if he was inside, snickering at me while I ran around the neighborhood, screaming his name and trying not to panic. I quickly threw the sliding van door open.
There, buckled safely into his seat, was my dear, sweet second born. He was sound asleep. I exhaled long. His head was bent to the side, supported by the seat belt. His body was limp and a slight snore escaped between his lips. I closed the van door and started the car. It wasn't until I'd backed down the driveway that he stirred. His eyes flew open and he looked around as if confused by his moving surroundings.
"You scared me," I said.
"I couldn't find you. I was yelling your name."
He stared at me in the rear view mirror. "Did you get in the van after you got dressed?" I asked.
"Yes. I was tired. I closed my eyes. I think I took a nice, little nap."
"I almost called the cops," I told him.
His eyes widened. "WHY?"
"Because I couldn't find you."
I have no idea how, on earth, he slept through my shrill shrieks--at least a dozen of them--ringing out through the neighborhood. In the future, before I assume that his kidnapper is on his way to Mexico, I'm going to check the van. Apparently, it's a nice place for an early evening slumber.