Yesterday’s Thoughts

May 6, 2005

Five Seconds

Today I picked the littlest one up at her day care. She was so sweet, elaborately kissing me when I picked her up, which she doesn’t always do now that she is two-and-a-half and feeling really pretty much grown up.

They had been on a field trip for Cinco de Mayo, so her car seat was inside. I carried them both outside and set them down to unlock the car. While I was getting the door open and putting the seat in, she wandered a few feet down the sidewalk, so I went and got her and told her to stand still while I attached the seat belt.

I had just pulled the seat belt through when I heard a horn. I yanked my head out of the car and she was no where to be seen. Terrified, I looked up and down the sidewalk and then out into the street. There was a driver in the street, stopped just behind my rear bumper. As I raced around the car, she came walking back to the the curb and I grabbed her with both arms. She had been out in the street – three lanes of one way rush hour traffic. It could have been so bad.

I waved to thank the driver who had stopped and blown his horn. He looked frightened. He had probably saved her life.

She was scared too, probably by the horn. I was shaking. She cried. I sobbed on the sidewalk holding her.

Eventually she said she wanted to go home. I belted her in the car, and got in myself. It was a long time before I could bear to start the car.

What did I do wrong?

1) I assumed that the littlest one could understand what I said, “Stay there,” and do it. I should have put her in the car or left her inside while I installed the seat.

2) I ignored that fact that she had walked away once before. I was starting to think that she is grown up too, but there is no excuse. She has never had the respect for the street that the little man has and has always resisted holding my hand at the crosswalk or in a parking lot.

3) Most painfully, I was distracted in the worst possible way. I was thinking about my oldest daughter’s death 22 years ago. The conjunction of events is too much to contemplate, much less put into words. My mind is disassociating from my body with the effort.

Maybe I’ll come back to this.

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