Loon Day

It seemed like a great idea.

We had a beautiful, sunny day ahead of us. We were on vacation with Alex’s mom, also known as “Grandma.” Someone suggested we go to “Loon Day.” I didn’t know what Loon Day entailed, but I figured it would be an arts and crafts fair with food booths and kids’ activities.

I was right. But what I didn’t know was that Loon Day would forever live on in my memory as quite possibly the worst day of my life thus far. Or at least the worst 15 minutes.

But let’s start with this:


I know. Awesome. I don’t know who those people are, but if we’d been on foot, you’d better believe that would’ve been my family standing there in front of the giant loon.

We had some fun. We ate lunch. We browsed. Alex’s mom went to watch the Loon Call Competition.


I originally took this photo because of the woman I circled I up there. She was dressed up in Full Loon Regalia (FLR) to judge the Loon Call Contest. Now I show it to you to let you see how many people had flocked (ha, ha, ha) to Loon Day. And this was just one small area of Loon Day. Loon Day encompassed many, many blocks.

I’m going to show you another photo.


Jack in jail. Funny, huh? He really liked the little old-timey jail next to the historical museum.

*FORESHADOWING* *FORESHADOWING* *FORESHADOWING* *FORESHADOWING* *FORESHADOWING* *FORESHADOWING* *FORESHADOWING*

I think he really liked that the cell had a bed. Perhaps Loon Day was too overwhelming and the jail cell was quiet and comfy and small.


We had to drag him out of there.

Shortly thereafter we walked over to the little outdoor spot where people were selling drinks and beer brats. I don’t know what the fuck a beer brat is, but I know they were selling them because there was a dude with a bullhorn and he kept yelling, “Beer brats! Beer brats! Beer brats!”

Alex bought a water for our guys to share and then Quinn decided he wanted his own. Then there was a little scuffle whilst Quinn tried to steal a water from the cooler and I tried to keep him away from it. Alex and his mom were similarly wrangling the other two. During this time we got all turned around and suddenly I saw Alex’s mom ask Alex something and then Alex said, “Where’s Jack?”

And then we ran around in confused circles for three or four minutes while our panic mounted. I’d been dragging Quinn around, but at some point I shoved him at Alex, who in turn shoved both him and Sam at his mom. Then we ran around in wider confused circles for a couple minutes.

I don’t know if you’ve ever lost a child. (And if you haven’t, dear lord, I hope you never do.) Like LOST lost a child, but there comes a moment when you make the decision that it is no longer necessary to keep proper decorum. There is a strong drive in many people, me included, to NOT MAKE A SCENE. And up to this point, we hadn’t done so.

But after our aimless wandering didn’t produce Jack (hmmm…imagine that), I made the executive decision: It was time to MAKE A MOTHERFUCKING SCENE.

“Alex, I think we have to find security,” I said the next time our paths crossed. The only problem is that there didn’t seem to be any security at all of Loon Day.

I ran into the nearest building, which was the Historical Museum, and scared the crap out of the eleventy-billion year old volunteer that was behind the desk.

“Istheresecurityanywhere? IlostmysixyearoldsonandIcan’tfindhimandIneedsecurity!!!”

She said she didn’t know of any security but that the DNR booth was right over there and maybe they could help me. And all I could think was, “How will the Do Not Resusitate” people help me?”

And then I realized that she was talking about the Department of Natural Resources, and although they were not security, they did have on matching shirts, which was a uniform of sorts, so I figured I’d go with her suggestion.

I headed over to them and scared the crap out of them as well.

“Ilostmyautisticsixyearoldson. Canyouhelpmefindhim? Istheresecurity? WhatshouldIdo?!?!”

To give them credit, they only stared at me blankly for a couple of seconds and then the woman in the blue DNR shirt told me to call 911. And she reminded me about the Beer Brat Guy.

So I dialed 911 and ran over to the Beer Brat Guy. Meanwhile, the 911 operator was trying to get me to give her my home address. “I live in Maryland,” I said.

“I need your home address,” she said.

And I didn’t say, “How the hell is that GERMANE to the fucking situation?” but I wanted to. And then I gave her my home address.

Meanwhile, I was imploring the Beer Brat Guy to broadcast Jack’s loss and description over his bullhorn. Which he did. Evidently Alex was down the street and when he heard, “We have a lost six-year-old wearing a blue shirt…” he thought the Beer Brat Guy had found Jack. However, it soon became evident from the continued bullhorn broadcasting that he had not. I don’t know if he heard my sobbing in the background, but that would have let him know that Jack was still lost as well.

And while all this was going on—me sobbing and trying to tell the Beer Brat Guy what to say and giving a description of Jack and what he was wearing—I was still on the phone with the 911 lady, who was not being helpful at all.

At some point a kind, well-meaning woman came up and suggested that Beer Brat Guy say, “Jack Lastname, come to the Beer Brat station.”

“He’s autistic,” I blubbered. “He won’t…He won’t just come.”

This went on for I have no idea how long until I heard someone shouting, “They found him! They found him!” I shook off the 911 lady and ran off to where the DNR woman in the blue shirt was walking toward me with Jack. She had gone searching for him. And with the bullhorn description was able to figure out who he was.

I ran up to them and gave the woman a hug and a thank you first, because I knew I would not be coherent enough after bending down to Jack to do so. And then I gave Jack the biggest hug I could and kissed his nose and smiled at him through my tears. He was totally unfazed. He’d been in the jail cell. He’d been happy. He didn’t realize he was lost.

“I told you afterwards that I was going,” he told us later, when we were talking to him about not wandering off.

I put his wrist in a vise grip with my hand and we walked over to Beer Brat Guy to thank him. Beer Brat Guy put the bullhorn up to Jack’s mouth and coached him on what to say:

“I’m Jack…and I love my mom.”

And that’s about it, except for the residual shaking, adrenaline, and Alex and my refusal to let go of Jack’s wrist for the rest of the day. Also, our pledge to each other that we would never go to a zone defense again with our kids. Because that Jack, he is a sneaky one. He’ll slip away if he’s not subject to man-to-man defense.

Or we could just put him in one of these for the rest of his life to keep him safe.


Wow. Okay. That was pretty intense to go through again. Look at that little face up there. Can you imagine if something had happened to him?

42 thoughts on “Loon Day

  1. Oh dear. I remember you tweeting about heading out to that thing. I am both laughing and crying for you.Laughing because of your writing, crying because we LOST lost my 3 year old once in one of the Disney shopping areas around Disney World. Instead of an eleventybillion year-old guy, we had a ten year-old Lego Store employee with a barely functional grasp of the English language to help out.

    It was terrifying. I feel for you. Glad he was found unharmed! (Even so, isn’t there always the What If? scenarios which my brain plays out all too eagerly since becoming a mom.)

  2. This brought a flood of memories from the day I lost my two year old daughter at Disneyland and in the 5 minutes she was gone, I became a complete lunatic. I can still feel the adrenaline rush and I’m sure it took at least 10 years off my life. So glad your story had a happy ending too.

  3. I just about got palpitations reading this, and I already knew you found him in the end! How awful and scary.
    Wanting your home address… yes. Sigh. I rang our health helpline in the middle of the night once because my 10-month-old baby was having breathing difficulties, and they insisted on knowing MY date of birth. Huh???

  4. Oh my God Stimey. How horrible. The sheer panic you must have been experiencing. I’m so glad that Jack was safe and sound and not surprised that he’d always thought he was safe and sound. Last week Swistle had written about losing one of her kids at the pool and I was brought back in time to a similar event with my brother as a kid. When I used to take my niece to the Mall of America I’d make her carry my name and cell phone number in her pocket and if she ever got separated from me she was first to stay put and if too much time went by she was to find a person with a uniform to tell she was lost and here was her aunt’s info. She was probably 5 then. Not so easy with younger kids. Anyway, I’m so glad Jack is okay. So scary. -Monica

  5. OMG, I was terrified the entire time reading it. I’m sad to say I’ve felt this way more than a couple times up here on our vacation. I am so glad you found him!

  6. I can feel the fear in your writing. Or maybe I’m just imagining my own terror.

    And all these other commenters mentioning losing their kid at Disney, and here we are making plans to go to Disney next year. Sigh.

    I am ALL about man-to-man defense.

    I’m so glad all turned out well.

  7. Ok, I started off laughing at the big freakin’ loon. What the hell? But I was soon scared to pieces for you. That is such a scary experience, especially when you are in a strange place (and I mean that in both senses of the word). I’m glad he was safe and sound in jail. LOL

  8. I have chills just reading this and I knew the end.

    We lost my then five year old niece at the beach and for 20 minutes had to decide between abduction and drowning as our ‘what ifs.’

    You’re absolutely right; there is that moment where making a BIG scene becomes mandatory.

    Thank God. So, so scary.

  9. We have a 5-year old ADHD “runner” so when we attempt to go to public places he tends to wear a football jersey. Helps to hear through the bullhorn “Looking for a little boy in a Troy Aikman jersey” to distinguish him. But it’s still so terrifying at any time!

  10. It’s finally happened. You’ve rendered me snark-less. All I’ve got is these gigantic hot tears streaming down my face.

    I know it all turned out ok…I knew before I read this that Jack was fine. But, oh dear mother of God, I couldn’t breathe right along with you and Alex.

    God bless the beer brat guy and the DNR lady.

  11. Wow!! Even though I knew the outcome of your story, it still had my heart racing. What a complete nightmare!!

    I did pause for a second at the DNR comment, because I too thought “why would they have a booth set up for end of life options at a loon fair?”

    What’s even more difficult about this story is that Jack didn’t think he was lost. We have played the “what if you’re lost” scenario with our kids. We tell them to find a mommy, because it helps them focus on finding someone who looks safe. We will even have them point out people they would ask when we are in crowded areas.
    None of that would help your situation, because Jack didn’t feel lost.

    I feel for you!!

  12. OMG. Been there, done that, fear it EVER happening again. Foster is not a runner. No, he’s just a clueless wanderer. If you ask him who his mom is, he would say “She is my mother.” If you ask him where his home is, he would say “It is on a steep hill” … even though he KNOWs his address and my name.

    The jail cell. Of course.

    love.

  13. My heart is racing from reading this and I knew everyone was OK! Terrifying. It reminds me of one of our (probably THE worst) parenting moments when Scott was just over 3 yrs old. We were getting ice cream near our house when he decided it would be funny to run away from us. Straight across a busy street where the drivers cannot see people leaving the ice cream place. If a car had been driving by, it would have hit him, and no doubt, killed him, right before our eyes.

    My husband I were shaking and speechless for weeks afterward. It takes a long time to get over such awful experiences.

    We didn’t let him walk unattached for YEARS afterward, either. No matter where we were!!

  14. So as I’m reading this story, the kid feels he’s being VERY ignored, comes over and demands, “CLOSE IT,” and then, well, closes the laptop. I’m flustered and sighing at my kid and then I realize that I’m crying and maaaybe missing the point here.

    So I’m closing it, but not before microchipping my kid.

  15. So very, very scary. We lost our little guy at a neighborhood party when he was 18 months old. He wandered into another yard with a baby pool full of water in it. Thank God he was fine and your Jack is, too.

  16. Oh man, my heart was pounding just reading that even though I knew it was going to turn out ok. Joseph is a wanderer too so I have had brief moments like this one but never a full on 911-calling, bullhorn-yelling, DNR-involvement incident.

    Oh, Jack. Oh, you. What are you we going to do with you two?

  17. Absolutely horrifying. I lost mGal on a packed beach for about 20 minutes and I didn’t recover for days. And now, anytime we go somwhere in public, they wear wristbands with my cell phone number on them. It won’t keep them from getting lost, but somehow it makes me feel better. (It would be good if I could remember to keep my cell phone charged!)

    I’m glad he is ok. And you survived the ordeal. Ack.

  18. ***HUGS*** for both you and Alex. Hey, give some to the little dudes as well. Not. Fun.

    But beer brats totally rock. One of the few things I miss from Wisconsin. On tap Spaten and delivered groceries are the others.

  19. Oh my sweet boy. So glad you found him. Give him love from me although I know he could care less because in his mind he was safe. Xoxo to you. I love you

  20. I don’t know how you’re still not shaking from that–maybe you are. I have a feeling zone defense will fail me at some point, but maybe I’d do better to take the dirty looks and get a leash for my youngest.

  21. Terrifying. Having three out in public scares me – especially when it’s just me with them. And it’s always so complicated…like, “potty training Eleanor needs to use the potty, but ‘special’ child Oliver is afraid of public bathrooms.” This translates into me making him sit on the bench outside of the bathroom while I run back and forth first yelling at Eleanor not to touch anything and then yelling at Oliver not to move and to talk to me through the door (and of course to yell at George to not touch anything). It’s exhausting. I am so glad you found Jack somewhere he felt safe and happy. At least one of you wasn’t emotionally scarred!

  22. Damn it, I’m crying, and I thought I knew the story already from your tweets.

    Welcome back, Jack.

    You did the right thing. Always go with causing a scene with a lost child.

  23. I was fine until I read the part where Jack said that he loved you through the bullhorn. Thank God he’s OK! We lost Patrick at the beach one time, and the thought of it still makes my stomach drop to my shoes. You’ll remember this one forever, too. PHEW!

  24. i thought i wouldn’t cry…but imagining the terror of living through that was too, too much. i have only experienced that for about two minutes. i don’t know how you were able to relive that! i hope that never, NEVER happens to you again!

  25. Even though I knew you found him in the end, this post still really stressed me out. Oh, god, I cannot imagine. So glad you found him. Excellent cautionary tale.

  26. I’ve felt that heart-sinking feeling for about 30 seconds a few times. I cannot imagine going through that. You got me all teary eyed with this one. Glad Jack was just in jail!

  27. Oh no, I’m so glad he was okay, and really glad he didn’t feel lost because he’d have been so scared, too. But must you make me cry when I’m supposed to be on my way to work (somehow this is your fault that I was reading blogs instead of driving to work).

    xoxo

  28. How frustrating that you had such a hard time getting people to help you! I would think that, by the time you did find Jack, the police would have made it to the scene… the very first person you told in the museum should have called them! I’m glad he’s safe and sound!

  29. Poor Stimey! I lost my brother on the NJ board walk when I was in charge. It was almost 35 years ago and I can still feel the panic, and relief when he found us. I lost A for about 5 endless minutes in a pizza hut on halloween when she was about 3. Little kids in costume were everywhere, and she went to the bathroom by herself. The hysteria rose quickly!Do not leave me in charge of children!

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