A lost child: Every mother’s worst fear
I was standing in an aisle at Costco contemplating which body wash to buy when I lost her.
It was a busy Saturday afternoon last spring.
My father was looking for vitamins. My mother and 2-year-old were right next to me weighing in on the pros and cons of gels versus creams when my daughter bolted around the corner.
I halted my soap search and dutifully chased after my child. I rounded the corner to my left and entered the aisle Kendall had ran into four seconds beforehand.
The aisle was empty.
Where was Kendall?
“Kendall,” I yelled loudly. “Kendall? Kendall!”
I bent over and scanned between the stacks of pallets and boxes down the aisle, although it wasn’t an aisle at all.
The row was broken open by a walkway in the middle. The walkway led to the cash registers and out to the exit of the store.
I frantically circled the entire pharmacy section yelling out her name. My mom and dad did the same.
She was nowhere.
How far could a tiny child go in a matter of seconds?
She had never wandered before. I strained my ears to listen for her cries. Surely, if she realized that I wasn’t behind her, she would be upset. She’s a confident child, but she was still 2. She was still clingy.
She would be asking for her Mommy by now.
I jogged up to the congested checkout lines and projected as loudly as I could: “Help! Has anyone seen a 2-year-old? I lost my daughter! She has blonde curly hair and is wearing a purple shirt with a butterfly on it. Help! Can anyone see her?”
Hundreds of eyes began to look around. I yelled at the cashiers to page about a lost child.
But there was no loudspeaker system at Costco.
The employees announced a lost child over their walkie-talkies. Shoppers in the back, shoppers leaving the store, had no clue that a child wandering on her own belonged with me.
Shoppers had no clue that the man dragging the tiny butterfly decked blonde behind him did not belong to him.
Because, yes, I immediately believed that some man had her.
He had scooped her up as soon as she popped around the corner. With his hand over her mouth, he was muffling her screams and exiting the building.
I ran to the door, yelling the entire way at customers to look out for my tiny treasure. The security team at the exit — the ones who take your receipt and eye off your cart before releasing you — told me they hadn’t seen a child leaving alone, or with anyone else.
I exited the store and while watching each party that followed after, I scanned the parking lot for a man with my baby.
My heart was pounding against my ribs and I could feel my blood speeding through my veins. The unborn baby in my swollen belly began kicking from the massive adrenaline hit.
As each second passed, as each person left the store with no sign of Kendall, I started to worry that I would never see her again.
I felt completely helpless. Kindly customers approached me and asked if my daughter had been found. “No,” I cried out to them.
No. No. No.
She was gone.
I took out my cellphone and dialed 911. I told the police I was reporting a missing child — a possible abduction — and I needed them at the West Des Moines Costco immediately.
“How long has the child been missing,” the officer asked.
“About four minutes,” I replied.
He began asking me for a description of Kendall when a woman ran out of the store entrance and said, “They found the little girl!”
I made the officer stay on the line and I started to run again. I wouldn’t believe it was Kendall until I saw her.
But, there she was, held tightly by my father, still in the pharmacy section.
I pulled her into my arms as tears began to form and oddly enough, my heart suddenly beat faster.
“Hi Mommy,” she said with a smile, her blue eyes calm and reassuring.
She had no idea she had been lost and seemed taken aback by the showering of kisses that rained down upon her.
She had indeed ducked underneath the pallets just around the corner from the body washes. My father had double backed, thinking she was hiding because she wasn’t crying, and found her playing with the boxes of boxes.
She had tucked herself into the miniscule space between the cardboard boxes that backed into one another.
In that moment, I had never before been more grateful for her tiny arms wrapped around my neck.
It took hours for me to feel calm again.
I couldn’t shake the feeling, the fear, that someone had abducted my sweet baby. It wasn’t until recently that I felt a twinge of that fear again.
When the news broke this fall that schools had been put on lockdown because of an attempted abduction in Grand Junction, I felt scared.
I was scared that people were really out there trying to abduct children.
I hadn’t jumped to the conclusion that some man had abducted my child at Costco because I had watched too many episodes of “Law and Order,” but rather because it was a logical thing to conclude.
Abductions did occur in Iowa.
So imagine my relief when it was reported that the attempted abduction was all a lie.
Unfortunately, the woman who reported the incident seemed to get the idea from a couple of actual recent attempted abductions in central Iowa.
We can only be grateful that these men were never successful in achieving their devious goals.
Hopefully, though, mothers and fathers of Jefferson can all fear that “bad guy” a little less today since Jefferson has been named the safest city in Iowa. My fear has certainly diminished. I am grateful to be raising my children in a city that can boast being safer than 89 percent of other U.S. cities.
If Kendall disappears around the corner at Fareway, I’m going to calmly find her hiding behind the nonperishables without ever panicking and needing to call 911.
How nice it is to call Jefferson home.
Andra Kucerak Guccione is a Jefferson resident.