As is occasionally my wont when making the daily grocery store trip, I decided today to ‘cruise’ the neighborhood before returning to the castle. I like to keep abreast of developments, you know.
Driving slowly behind another car on my patrol of the ‘hood’, I looked ahead as we both approached a stop sign. There, in the middle of the quiet suburban lane, stood a baby. Well dressed, neat in appearance, unafraid, and utterly alone.
The situation was so unusual that I was momentarily non-plussed.
The occupants of the car ahead of me were equally mystified, apparently, as they remained at the stop sign for nearly 30 seconds. After a moment’s reflection, I recognized their dilemma. Unlike a stray dog, or a haughty cat, the social contract does not allow for a close pass and a toot of the horn for unattended babies.
Eventually a door opened, and a grandmotherly personage emerged to approach and pick up the lost angel. That was my cue to pull alongside and ask the stunningly stupid question: “Is the child lost?”
“Well, it’s not ours…we’ll knock on a few doors and see if we can find the parents.”
Being the good citizen that I am, I slowly pulled around their vehicle, took a good look at the lost soul, and proceeded on my patrol.
At the next block, looking both ways before moving forward, I spied a young girl, of the early teenage variety, walking while carrying a smaller baby and a cell phone. Even from 50 yards away, her gait signalled a certain tension. Undeterred by this new information, I turned the other way to complete the loop around the neighborhood.
Within 1 minute I had circled back to the spot where I had seen the girl. There, in the street, stood the girl, still carrying a baby, and two other young teenage girls holding onto various young children. Up ahead, a few hundred yards away, I could see the stopped car, with a growing crowd of concerned citizens.
I stopped, rolled down my window, and asked the girls if they were missing a baby. The looks on their faces told the story…….flashes of fear, shame, and embarrassment flew across their visages. After all, who was I, how did I know, and lastly, WHERE IS THE BABY?
I pointed to the crowd in the distance, said the missing baby was with them, and told the baby sitter to walk to the scene; I would drive down and alert the good citizens that the mystery had been solved ….before anyone came to harm.
Imagine: a house full of not-quite-grown-up kids, baby-sitting for the neighbors. A few phone calls with some boys, or some other girls, a period of inattentive socializing, followed by the horrifying awareness that a child is missing.
Sounds like me and my brother, nearly 44 years ago.