I'm alone in my room at the Squaw Valley Lodge. Since 3:00 this afternoon, I've been combing through my memoir manuscript--taking out, putting in, doing what writers do.
It's been a while since I've gone all the way through this manuscript. It was confined to the armoire in my study for the two years I was in grad school working on a novel for my MFA in fiction.
Sometimes I forget the things I've written, and when I go back to them, I'm surprised. Undone even.
I found the third lost child, a little boy in sneakers, when C. was about two. I had taken her to the mall for a new pair of shoes. She was in her stroller, and we were wheeling toward Haagen-Dazs when he came running toward us. It was a weekday, and we’d gotten there just as the stores were opening. The mall was practically deserted. Only a couple of other people were around, and they watched as the little boy ran right to me.
“Uh-oh,” I said to my daughter, “This little boy needs to find his mommy.” I bent down to him, and he practically leapt into my arms. He fit nicely on my hip as I curled one arm around his back, using my free hand to maneuver my daughter and her stroller. We turned immediately into a small specialty store that sold popcorn. I asked the young woman behind the counter to call security. She was about to pick up the phone when a mall security officer just happened to walk by and asked me to bring the child and follow him. The little boy was still perched on my hip, his legs dangling while his miniature versions of expensive adult athletic shoes kicked against my thigh.
Just as the four of us started to walk away from the popcorn store, I heard a woman begin to wail. I recognized the Spanish word, "Dios," as her voice rocketed into an alarmed crescendo. A moment later a beautiful woman in her late twenties or early thirties emerged from an upscale boutique, a diaper bag and an expensive purse clutched in her arms. A much older man was at her side, and they both appeared terror-stricken until their darting eyes landed on the boy in my arms. They reached out to him, simultaneously wailing and kissing first him and then each other, all the while managing to thank the security guard and me. The man reached out to shake my hand and said in accented English, “Thank you, Missus! My little son is just now nine months old, but he is very fast for me.”
I pondered the man’s words and thought of my own dad who had been an older father. My parents owned a grocery store then, and they took me to work with them. My mother tied bells to my shoelaces so she could hear me as I walked through the aisles. I wondered for a minute if I should tie bells to my daughter’s new shoes.
The adrenaline generated by finding the little lost boy had made me hungry. Instead of having ice cream, I decided C. and I would have an early lunch. She liked the fruit tarts at a little café at the other end of the mall. We could get some soup first, and then have the tart for dessert. I was still sipping my coffee when I saw the little boy in the sneakers run past the café doorway. I leapt up from the table to intercept him, but saw that his father was just a few paces behind him.
Hey Mr. Ex, the Older Father appears to be one of the recurring images in my life. Good luck to you. Really.
Meanwhile, here in Writer's Conference Land it's all blue skies, rainbows, and party lights.
If I'm dreaming, please don't wake me up.