Years ago, when our children were growing up, it was a given that if you took kids shopping with you they were going to get lost, usually one at a time. When it happened it was a toss-up as to who would be more frightened, the mother or the child.
Most of our children managed to get lost in the old G.C. Murphy Co. store in beautiful downtown Greenville. Murphy’s was to Greenville in the ’60s what Walmart is today.
The first lost one was our oldest son. He was just 3 years old and he was gone. My heart dropped down to my feet, and bounced back up into my throat. I couldn’t see him anywhere, so I headed for the office to ask for help.
A clerk stopped me and asked if I had lost a little boy. I nodded yes and she said, “I think they have him cornered over by the candy counter.”
Wondering why she said “cornered,” I headed for the candy counter. There he was, with his back against the counter, surrounded by a crowd of helpful adults. But, he didn’t want any help. Every time anyone would attempt to approach him, he would kick in their direction and yell, “No!” I rescued the adults by taking our son home.
Our oldest daughter reacted quite differently when she got lost. Same store, same age, she wandered off to look at the toys. I could see her, but she couldn’t see me. So I stood still and watched, thinking she would learn a lesson and I wouldn’t suffer heart failure.
She looked all around and then sat down at the base of the counter and made herself comfortable. When I finally went after her, she regarded me calmly and said, “I knew you were lost, but I guessed if I just waited right here I’d find you.”
When it was the third one’s turn, I found him before he knew he was lost, so I just stayed out of his sight to see what he would do. He walked up and down the aisles as fast as he could and still watch both sides, the front and the back of himself. Every few steps he would softly call, “Mommy?” He looked like a little Huck Finn walking through a graveyard at midnight. When he found me, he promised he’d never get lost again.
The fifth one slipped ahead of the fourth one in the “getting lost” experience. He knew he was lost before I did. He was running up and down the aisles at break neck speed screaming, “Mommy!” When I caught up with him, he planted both of his little feet on the floor, and with one hand on his hip he pointed his finger at me and ordered, “Mommy, you scared me. Don’t you ever do that again!”
The fourth one chose a much more frightening venue to get lost in when she was just past 4. We had taken seven of the children, age 9 down to a few months, for a shopping trip to the then new Salem Mall in Dayton. It was quite a sight to behold in the early days.
We had finished our business in the first store and were walking to another one when I noticed we were short one girl child. Even back then, that was panic time. The child who was missing was the one who never saw a stranger and would talk to anybody.
Bill and the older kids fanned out to look for her. I backed up to look behind us. No luck. I was getting frantic. A security officer came up and Bill talked to him. He went to the office to spread the alarm. Bill rounded up the other kids while holding the baby. I headed back to the first store.
It was amazing how mean and sinister the people in the mall looked to me. They had seemed so friendly before she was lost.
As I reentered the first store, I heard an announcement, “We have a little girl here whose mother is lost. Will she please come to the office.” I almost knocked over the rest of the family, all of whom had heard the announcement and were converging on the office.
There she sat on a countertop surrounded by smiling adults who were offering her all kinds of treats. When she saw me she smiled happily and said, “Mommy, we found you! Don’t you get ‘losted’ any more!”
After that big city experience, it occurred to me that we might be better off if I just took the younger ones back to Murphy’s Five and Dime and let them get lost closer to home.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This column was first published in the Greenville Advocate April 6, 2005.
Kathleen Floyd is a volunteer citizen columnist, who serves The Daily Advocate readers weekly with her column Back Around the House II. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.