Not everyone can say that their day started out with an egg search and ended with a manhunt.
This morning, while Mike worked a maintenance shift down at the school, I took MJ to the local MOMS Club’s “Spring Party.” Among the activities featured: a bubble show, craft table, bake sale, and, yes, another egg hunt. This would, as many of you know, be Myra-Jean’s sixth since the commencement of the never-ending Easter Season. One might have thought it was too late for such things–Easter is, after all, something of a distant memory at this point. (Especially for the card companies, who have moved, with rabbit-like agility, on to Mothers Day.) Apparently, though, there’s no statute of limitations on egg hunts. No expiration date on chocolate bunnies, either. So: more searching, more elbowing-smaller-children-out-of-the-way, more temporary tattoos, more tiny heart stickers to get lost in the car, more wee erasers in pastel colors for the nonexistent pencils that your kid has never heard of. And more candy. Hurrah!
We left the hunt, sweets-besotted, cold, and thirsty. I had to pee. Myra-Jean was tired. Speeding home, I dreamt of the tea I would make when we got there, the “quiet time” I might coax MJ into taking, the heated toilet seat I would soon be sitting on. (Yes, I said heated. Have we never discussed this? More later.)
There would be none of these things, however. Driving up the hill to our house we found yellow police tape blocking the road in front of our driveway. Patrol cars were everywhere. Choppers fwapped loudly overhead. Neighbors stood outside, staring up at the sky, shooting cell phone pictures, talking excitedly in groups of two or three. It was loud, it was crazy. It was looking bad for that heated toilet seat.
“What the hell?” I asked a man standing nearby on his lawn.
“Armed guy, car thief,” he replied. “Somewhere up the hill. They’re bringing in the K9s.”
“No shit?” I looked doubtfully at the tape up ahead. My house was so close I could almost touch it. “I don’t suppose they’d let me just sneak into my house and go to the bathroom?”
He shook his head. “You can try. But they seem pretty serious.”
I decided to make the attempt. The officer I approached looked at me like he was going to put me in a headlock. I smiled primly.
“Sir? Hi. Um, I live just there–” I pointed helpfully. “And I was just–”
“You need to stay back.” he barked.
“My house is just right–”
Head hanging, I plodded back to the car.
“Are we going home?” asked MJ.
I dropped back into the drivers seat. “Not right now, honey.”
Myra-Jean’s lip began to tremble. “But why?”
“Well, the police. They have to, uh, find a friend.”
MJ started to sob. “I want to go home!”
“I know, honey.”
“I WANT TO! HOME!”
The crying escalated. Keening. Wailing. “And I want Red Belly!”
Oh, geez. Crap. Her blanket. Red Belly. I’d forgotten. It was inside. This was not good. As in, possibly a Defcon five.
I tried to sound calming, as if placating a rabid tiger. “I don’t think I can get to her right now. We’ll get her as soon as we can.” (Yes, Red Belly has a gender. I know. This is the kind of nuttiness you get into when you have a preschooler.)
“RED BELLY!!” Myra-Jean screamed.
It was like a three-year-old Stanley Kowalski screaming out her version of “Stella!” Very theatrical. Very stirring.
Looking miserably at MJ, I got back out of the car and took a few steps towards the barricades. Maybe they’d let me in–for a security blanket, for Chrissakes. Or maybe if they turned their backs I could just sneak…
A policeman turned and glowered at me from the tape. Jesus. I could just see the headline now: “Woman Shot After ‘Sneaking in For Daughter’s Belly.'”
Myra-Jean would just have to cry it out.
I went back to the car. “You want a piece of Easter candy?” I said, with false cheer.
The crying slowed. Then ceased completely. “Maybe just one,” she whimpered.
She got two.
Upshot: We rendezvoused with Mike, went out to lunch, drove around for an hour or so, and came back. This time our timing was perfect. The tape was just being lifted. Mr. Car Thief had just been caught, somewhere down the hill a bit. Flushed out by the K9s. Naked as the day he was born, no less. Life in the big city.
Cop cars were driving away lazily as we pulled into our driveway. “Home!” I cried. “At long last.”
We turned to see MJ fast asleep in the back seat.
Getting out of the car I walked purposefully inside, went into Myra-Jean’s room, grabbed Red Belly, brought her out, and handed her to Mike. Quietly and carefully he draped her over MJ.
“She’s here with you now,” he whispered softly. MJ, of course, didn’t hear. But she pulled that blanket close.
Then Mike got back in the car and drove away again. Our daughter, after all, would only keep sleeping in a moving vehicle.
When she woke up she’d find everything where it should be.
Except for me.
I’d be warming my butt at home. At finally safe, sweet home.