THE SONIC BOOMER
My grandchildren are 5 and 7 now — old enough to go to a carnival at night and not be scared. Their parents were out on a date night, and I couldn’t wait to dazzle the kidlets with the lights, the sounds, the fun of it all! But, because I am a responsible grandma, I brought out some glow sticks and said, “Crack these open and wrap yourselves up in them. On my watch, there will be no child left behind!”
The children did as they were told but, “They don’t work! They’re duds!”
Indeed they were. Evidently, glow sticks can’t make it from one Halloween to the next. Mumbling to myself about the transient nature of chemicals, I brought out the battery-operated wands we’d bought at Disney World for $25 each. And they worked great — right up until we were a decent distance from the car. Then the kids started whining, “These are heavy! Can you carry them, Grandma?”
“No, I cannot. But we can walk the two blocks back to the car and put them in and then walk two blocks more to get right back here. Is that what you want to do?”
They did. (Sigh.)
“Well, at least notice that I am wearing white slacks. If you need me, look for white. No one in their right mind wears white to a sticky, greasy carnival, but I did — for you, so you can find me, got it?” They nodded. “Do you know your mom’s phone number?” More nods. All good.
Upon our eventual entrance to the carnival, I stopped the starry-eyed, giddy, carnival-struck, bouncing children in their tracks to solemnly point out a gaggle of police officers, scarily dressed in all-black SWAT gear. “If you get lost, you find one of these guys, OK?” I said.
They nodded, eyes as big as saucers, mesmerized. As for me, I wondered exactly what the cops were expecting to go down that evening, dressed like that. Wow.
But now it was time for fun. Skippy ran over to the first booth he saw, begging to throw darts at balloons. I have to say, the carnival was very kid-friendly. The balloons weren’t half-deflated and placed a foot apart (making it hard to break one) but filled to capacity and pinned up shoulder to shoulder. Skippy quickly threw four darts, hit four balloons and won. Glory day! A little plush snake was his. Oh, the pride! If only we adults allowed ourselves to burst our buttons like that. The feeling was infectious. I texted my daughter, “We have been here five minutes, and Skippy has already won a game!”
When I looked up from my phone, five-year-old Tess was gone. Six minutes into the carnival, and one kid had disappeared!
Skippy and I called her name (no answer), then went back to where the SWAT guys had been standing, but nobody was there anymore. Six minutes? It had to be a kidnapping. My mind raced. We were so close to the entrance. Had someone just scooped her up and retreated back into the night? We stepped back outside and looked around, then power-walked the length and breadth of the carnival. “We’ll find her,” I said cheerfully. “She just got turned around is all.”
But no Tess. And no cops. My blood pressure had hit an all-time high by the time Skippy yelled, “There she is!”
And, yes, there she was, sitting calmly at the Lost Children tent, chatting amiably with the volunteer, sucking on a free lollipop and working on a Stranger Danger coloring page.
Evidently, I had made such a big deal about “what to do if you get lost” that she wanted to try it out! The next text I got was from my daughter: “Um, the police department just called…”