|a staged reenactment of actual events|
Lainey was gone! She wasn't on the other side of the kids clothes display like I thought. Instead of seeing her bright smiling face when I turned the corner, I found empty flip flops missing their owner.
Initially I figured she was in one of the toy isles so I called out her name and wheeled my Katie adorned cart calmly around the nearby stacks of toys. Scouring the area for blonde hair and bare feet, my heart began to race as my search came up empty. Her name now sounded like rapid gun fire from my mouth. Loud and fast! A fellow mother offered to help and asked for her description. Humiliated I rattled off, "She's wearing a brown dress with a pink flower and her feet are bare. She is only two and a half." She set off in one direction and I headed for the isle with princess sippy cups in hopes of finding my child grabbing several for our cart, like she does during most of our Target shopping trips.
No luck. She was no where to be found. I had no idea what to do. Should I stay in this area in case she came back here looking for me? Should I head to the front of the store in case she wanders that way? Has someone taken her? Will I ever see my baby girl again? Is she the next statistic? I'm going to throw up.
In the midst of my growing hysteria a security guard appeared as if from no where. I ran over and tried to calm myself enough to tell him, "I've lost my daughter!!" Immediately he was on his walkie talkie and all of Target's staff were on alert.
"Man the doors."
"Code Yellow. I repeat we have a store wide Code Yellow."
"Brown dress. Pink Flower. Blonde two and a half year old girl missing."
"Her name is Lainey."
Everything was communicated with a calm urgency. Red shirts dispersed through out the store. Repeatedly yelling her name, I made my way toward the front doors to make sure no one would walk outside with her, if someone hadn't already. I was in front of the greeting cards when I heard the most beautiful sound in the world, my daughter crying! There she was in the arms of a Target clerk that was surrounded by four other clerks all walking swiftly towards the check out stands. Reunited at guest services, both of us in tears, we hugged and kissed while a cheering group of workers celebrated a job well done.
How do you properly thank someone that returns your most prized possession? So many emotions were pulsing through my body. Relief, gratefulness, embarrassment, humiliation...I felt like the worst mother in the world. I was so thankful to receive support and care from all of Lainey's "rescuers," instead of judgement. One offered that she understood how difficult it is to keep little ones at this age by your side. She has two at home and one on the way that keep her guessing.
With Lainey's hand securely in mine, I walked back to the baby section to pick up one final item before checking out. After about five steps, Lainey looked up at me with her big beautiful blue eyes and said, "Let go!" I absolutely did not, but was glad that I was the only one that felt traumatized by the whole ordeal. I never knew that five minutes could feel like a lifetime.