“It has nothing to do with what a big boy you are, honey, it’s more about being accountable to your family. Even grownups have to let each other know those things.”
“Okay, Mommy. I mean, Mom. I love you, Mom.”
“I love you, too. That’s why I wanted to tell you all this stuff.”
I had just finished a dramatic explanation of how I felt that morning when I came back downstairs after changing the status on my computer to “I am not at my desk” and he was no longer standing in the kitchen, nor was he in the bathroom, man cave, nor anywhere in the house. I bolted outside in my socks and called for him, but he was nowhere in the immediate vicinity. “God help me,” I said – it’s probably my most frequently uttered prayer – as I rushed back inside, grabbed my keys, and scuffed into my sneakers, hobbling to the car with my laces undone.
As I pulled up to the intersection with Main Street, which is only 50 feet from our driveway, and prepared to make a left turn, I saw a police car, two school buses, and a bunch of other vehicles stopped behind them. I got in line but then my view was obstructed. Tick tick tick, I though impatiently.
Momentarily the police car pulled into the bank parking lot, the school buses turned off their flashing lights, and traffic began to flow again. I paused alongside the police car and lowered my window. Thankfully I knew the officer, who said, “He’s one of yours.” It was not a question, as much as a statement.
“Yes!” I said. “How far did he get?”
“Oh, he made it as far as xyz street when I stopped him and asked him where he was going.”
“He wasn’t scared, was he.” Again, not a question, as much as a statement.
“Not at all. He was just walking along, eating his biscuit. He told me he was going to school.”
“Toaster pastry. He’d already eaten but insisted he was hungry again and that’s why he missed the bus.”
“You didn’t – “
“No, of course not! I told him we’d walk to school as soon as I changed the status on my computer. I work at home and have to let people know when I leave the office…I guess he missed the part about ‘we’.“
“Yeah, well, the lady in the white house over there flagged me down. It seems she saw him crossing Main Street…”
“No! He crossed Main Street by himself!?” I was both impressed with and worried about my son’s intrepid spirit.
“Hang on a sec, I have to let the station know that we’ve notified you. Actually, you ought to head up to the school.”
“Thanks, I sure will,” I said, speeding the wrong way through the bank drive through.
“Can I help you?”
“Well, yes…I have a situation…are you…?” The woman in the office looked familiar, but I couldn’t remember exactly who she was.
“I’m so and so, from the guidance staff.”
“Oh, right! Great! I think you’re actually my son’s guidance counselor.”
“Yes – quite a personality.”
“Well, he decided to walk to school today, and…”
“Do you know where he is!?”
“He’s here, somewhere…I’m not sure what bus he came on…” and I recounted the events that had transpired in the past seven minutes or so.
“That sounds just like him.”
“Yeah, it does.”
I could hear the other woman in the office on the phone: “Yes, we know, thank you. The mom’s here.” Apparently the bus company had called.
“He has some qualities that will serve him well in life. When he’s older. But for now…you’ve got your hands full with that one.”
It was not the first time I’d heard that. “Do you think you can discuss this with him?”
“We’ll have him meet with the principal right after announcements.”
Two older girls had come into the office and were preparing to read the announcements, so I whispered, “Thank you. Call me if you need me – I’m right up the street and work at home.”
On the way out, I told the policeman, who had parked in the school driveway, “You know, he’ll be meeting with the principal in about ten minutes, if you’d like to join them.”
That afternoon when I concluded the conversation with my son, I told him, “I’m not mad at you, honey.”
He replied, “That’s just what the principal and the policeman said, Mom! Except they didn’t call me ‘honey.’ ”