It was a typical Sunday night here at (not) our house.
The boys were in the garage jamming with their guitars and drums; Tony was doing some cleaning in there while Gabby danced around listening to her brothers rock out with their instruments. I was in the house sniffing the steak to make sure it hadn’t gone bad.
I went into the garage and asked Tony to come inside so that I could have him sniff the steak (because I am paranoid when it comes to meat and always think it smells bad and must be rotten.) I told the boys “I need your dad for one minute, keep an eye on your sister while she’s in here with you.”
“Ok, Mom, we will.”
Tony followed me inside and the great “The Steak is Bad!! IS NOT!!” debate began.
“It smells fine, it’s not bad.”
“I think it smells funny.”
“Well, you always think meat smells bad. You’re a paranoid freak about meat.”
“Well, better to be safe than end up with food poisoning from bad meat.”
“IT’S NOT BAD.”
“Fine! I’ll cook it for YOU, but I’m not feeding that to my children. I’ll go get them something for dinner.”
I started to season the steak when Tony came up behind me to tell me he didn’t want THAT spice on it but THIS spice.
So, I let him take over steak seasoning duties and I headed over to the TV to turn on Celebrity Fit Club.
About 5, no more than 10 minutes had passed since Tony had come inside and left Gabby with her brothers in the garage. I got this really weird feeling in the pit of my stomach that I needed to make sure she was ok, because as much as the brothers love her, sometimes they forget they’re supposed to be watching her (which is why I never ask them to watch her for more than a few minutes at a time.)
“I’m going to go check on the kids, I need to make sure the boys are paying attention to their sister.”
Tony followed behind me.
The garage door is immediately to your left when you open the front door, so I opened up the screen, looked at Andrew who was holding his electric guitar in his lap and said “Is your sister ok?”
“She’s not here. I thought she went with you guys.”
“Are you kidding? I told you to keep an eye on her while I talked with your dad.”
“I know, but I thought she went inside with you.”
Tony ran out front to see if she was there. I ran inside to see if she had snuck inside. I began to search all of the rooms and didn’t see her.
I ran back outside, where my husband and the boys were frantically searching all over the yard. We were all screaming “GABBY!? GABBY?”
I ran back inside thinking maybe she was hiding in her brothers room or something silly like that. Ethan had ran inside with me and I turned to him and screamed “WHERE IS SHE, ETHAN? OH MY GOD, WHERE IS SHE?”
He started to cry.
“I don’t know, Mom.”
I could hear Tony and Andrew screaming for her outside.
I was trying to stay calm, because I have a history of overreacting (OMG! BEES!) and surely, my little girl wasn’t really missing! So no need to lose my fucking mind!
But then, I heard my husband shout out to the neighbor down the street in a frightened, hysterical voice, “Have you seen a little girl?!?”
And my heart stopped.
And I felt the room spinning
And I felt like I was going to throw up, or pass out, or die.
I ran back outside.
Andrew was crying and saying “Oh my God, Gabby.”
Tony was white as a ghost.
Ethan was crying while riding around on his bike screaming “GABBY.”
“WHERE IS SHE TONY? OH MY GOD WHERE IS SHE?”
“Go call 911” he shouted at me.
I ran inside, head was spinning, heart was pounding out of my chest and all I could think was “this can not be happening. This can NOT BE HAPPENING TO MY FAMILY.”
I was shaking so violently that I could barely pick up the phone.
At the exact moment that I heard the operator answer my call (“What’s your emergency?”) I heard my husband scream “Y! I found her! I found her!”
“I thought our little girl was missing, but we found her, we found her!”
I began to sob as I hit my knees because they were so weak they could no longer support my weight.
Tony ran inside and brought her to me while the 911 operator was asking me a few questions.
I hung up with her and asked him where he found her. “Where was she?”
“She was in my car, playing around in the backseat.”
Apparently, while he was running around outside frantically screaming her name, he heard her little voice, but couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. Then, he turned towards his car and saw her little beanie bouncing around in the backseat of his car. (His car was parked on the curb just in front of our house.)
You see, she loves to play inside of the car. Sometimes, I’ll take her outside, we’ll climb in my van and I’ll let her play with the steering wheel while I listen to talk radio. And sometimes Tony will let her play inside of his car while he’s washing it. So, the little princess had walked out of the garage, headed down the driveway, walked over the grass, stood on the curb, opened up the car door, climbed in, shut the door behind her and was having a Party For One in the backseat totally clueless the to fact that her entire family, the people who love her more than anything else in the world, were frantically looking for her thinking she had been snatched by a stranger. (Because that is what we ALL thought.)
The only other time that I have been as scared as a parent is when Ethan almost drowned in our neighbor’s swimming pool.
It felt as though hours had passed by in those moments where we couldn’t find our little girl, but in reality, the entire ordeal lasted less than 10 minutes. And in those 10 minutes, I thought of so many awful things that could have happened to her and I thought of all of the times where I hadn’t paid enough attention to her and all of the times that I had been angry with her for stupid things that don’t really matter.
Tony handed her to me, I started to cry and kiss her all over and tell her how much I loved her and how she should never climb into daddy’s car without telling us first and how I’ll never complain again about how ever since she started wanting to wear make up and “be pretty like mommy” all of my lipsticks look like this.
And then, we all sat down as a family to talk about how important it is to obey your parents if they tell you to “watch your sister” for a few minutes, but more importantly, how we should hug each other more, kiss each other more, tell each other how much we love each other more because life is crazy and life as you know it can change in a split second and you never, ever want to regret how you treated the people who you love the most.