Somewhere over the Rainbow

Auntie Em: Help us out today and find yourself a place where you won’t get into any trouble! 
Dorothy: A place where there isn’t any trouble. Do you suppose there is such a place, Toto? There must be. It’s not a place you can get to by a boat or a train. It’s far, far away. Behind the moon, beyond the rain… 
[begins to sing “Over the Rainbow”] 
–from The Wizard of Oz

When my daughter and her husband leave with us their children — a grandson age nine and a grand-daughter age six —  they entrust us with precious treasure.  I feel keenly responsible, a feeling that is visceral and adrenal.  I’m happy, but also alert.  

These two children play like frolicking puppies, teasing, chasing, and squealing.  Well behaved, they usually respond to gentle reminders because they love to please.  They are clever and confident children.

And they love ice cream.

After their piano lessons one evening as I was driving them home, I decided to stop at Kroger for milk, fruit, and ice cream. 

“We’ll get the ice cream last,” I said.  “We can only get one kind, so you’ll have to agree on a flavor.”

“Chocolate!” They sang out.

Imagine a nine and six year old in front of the ice cream section in Kroger.  An eager duet, they read aloud the flavors.  Rocky Road, Dutch Chocolate, Neapolitan, Chocolate Chip, Mint Chip, Cookies and Cream, Cherries Jubilee…

The grandson first suggested Mint Chip. “Yuck!”  said his sister. Then she rejected Rocky Road, “Nuts! You hate nuts!” She grabbed Neapolitan because it was pink and striped with chocolate.

“Not that one.  Let’s get Cookies and Cream.”

And so we proceeded to the Self-check out where I began scanning items.  

“Oma, she’s gone!” said my grand-son.

“What? Gone!?”

“She went back to get more ice cream.”  He looked horrified.  

I would need to leave the items on the scanner and go after her.  As I turned, my grandson took off ahead of me.  He’s in cross country.  I’m not.  Now I had two grand-children out of sight.  

By the time, I rounded the corner of the freezer section, they were coming toward me, she with three cartons of ice cream in her arms, and he with a disgusted look on his face.

“She won’t put them back,” he said.

We returned the extra ice cream.  I scolded her for running off, which also meant I had to remind her of safe behavior.  My mind flashed to child snatchers lurking in grocery stores at eight o’clock at night just waiting for a curly headed, pink cheeked six-year-old distracted by shelves and shelves of yummy ice cream.

A confident creature, she looked innocently at me and said, “What else can I do?” as in, I came back, what else do you want?

“I want you to stick to me even when we get home!  I’ll tell you when you can go. Is that clear?”

On the way home, I could hear her soft sniffles in the back seat of the car. 

Grand-parenting is all deja vu.  

Suddenly I was six years old in Macy’s in San Francisco shopping with my mother.  The department store had elevators and five or six floors.  I became distracted by all the bling in the jewelry section.  One minute my mother was there, the next she wasn’t.  At first, I wasn’t afraid. She had to be nearby.  I would find her.  The more I looked, the more lost I became, until hot tears ran down my cheeks.

A sales lady knelt down and asked me my name.  I knew not to talk to strangers.  Terrified now, I sobbed uncontrollably.  In the office, where she led me, people tried to console me and learn my name, or my mother’s name.  They finally gave up and announced over the store intercom, “Would the mother of a lost child please come to the office.”

A few minutes later, two mothers showed up.

I too lost a daughter once–in Disney World for half a day.  She went out one door of a restroom, I the other.  After hours of frantic searching, I finally found her sitting at a bus stop.  “You take the bus, so I knew you would find me.”  She was seven years old.  I had never known such terror and relief was possible.

Let’s not discuss, please, my hiking adventure in the Rockies at age 68, when I veered from a main trail, lost my bearings at 11,000 feet, and had to be guided out by a rescue squad before dark set in and bears ate me.

All things considered, I decided the other night I might need a little check-up regarding my own whereabouts.  “Herb, do I sometimes wander off?”  

“All the time, Love, all the time.  You’ll be right here beside me, and I won’t have a clue where you’ve gone.”

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