Biographical Non-Fiction posted December 4, 2017

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A horrifying moment for a young mom

Lost and Found

by alice schellhorn magrane

I made it a point not to shop for clothes with my toddler in tow. I usually waited until I could hire a babysitter while I went to buy a new outfit, but this couldn't wait. We were invited to a party the next weekend and I had nothing to least that was my thinking at the time.

Finding a space in the parking lot, I unfastened the seatbelt that held my three-year-old son captive in his car seat and held his hand as we walked toward the dress shop in the strip mall. I vowed that I would not walk out of that store without something new and stylish to wear.

As I began to browse through the dresses and pantsuits arrayed on the racks, my son became cranky. He never liked going shopping--didn't even enjoy the grocery store. I allowed him to let go of my hand while I took a dress and held it up to myself, gazing in the mirror to see if it might be something I'd consider trying on. When I turned around, my son had vanished!

"Ricky, where are you?" I asked in an elevated tone of voice. No answer. Since it was a small store, I began walking up and down the aisles, calling the same refrain over and over again, "Ricky, where are you?" As I approached the last aisle, without hearing a response to my pleading, I succumbed to panic.

Walking up to the front counter, I breathlessly asked the cashier, "Have you seen my son? He's three years old, with curly blond hair and was wearing jeans and a striped tee shirt. I can't find him anywhere and he's not answering when I call him."

"No, Ma'am," the cashier replied. "I wasn't up here every moment, but I don't recall seeing any small boy in the store." At that point I ran outside to see if my son had left the store and gone into the parking lot. I didn't let myself imagine the unimaginable, didn't allow myself to think of all the dangers he might have encountered. I didn't see him anywhere.

Returning to the store, I asked the cashier if I might use the store's phone to call the police and report a missing child. "Are you sure he's not here?" the woman responded. Despite my panic, I called out, "Ricky, if you're here, please tell me where you are."

That's when I heard a stifled giggle coming from the back of the store. Rushing there, I saw a gap among the dresses hanging on the rack. I parted them to see my little son, laughing uproariously at being found!

My relief was so great that it overcame my anger. "Ricky, you shouldn't hide from me," was all I could summon up. I was feeling weak and shaky as the overpowering anxiety and fear I had experienced slowly evaporated. We left the store without purchasing anything--the urgency to buy a new outfit all but forgotten.

I never again brought my young son with me when I went shopping for clothes. I doubt that was his intention when he hid from my sight, but it certainly resulted in his freedom from an activity he considered onerous. Almost forty-five years later that incident stands out as one of the most fearful I have ever experienced and causes me to feel an overwhelming sense of sadness whenever I hear a news story concerning a lost child.

True Story Contest contest entry

My son, now 49, was amused when he read this short story. He could not imagine my despair at the thought of losing him. He can't understand that my maternal instincts cause me to worry about his well-being even now. I believe it must be a part of motherhood that's coded in the genes!
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Artwork by VMarguarite at

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