While my daughter and I were at lunch last week she told me her youngest son Daniel, who is 21 in a few weeks, was never going to have babies. He just didn’t like them. On the other hand, her eldest boy Matt, who is 26, loves babies and can’t wait to get married and have lots.
“Of course you know you won’t be babysitting with your record of losing children!”, she told me.
It’s true, I have lost the odd child, well actually, I’ve lost four over the years. My daughter when she was about three, my son when he was about four and two grandsons, but no harm was done. They were all found safe and well in a short time and the only one traumatised, it seems, was me, and after the last missing grandchild a few years ago now, I don’t know if I want to babysit anywhere else other than at home.
My daughter’s youngest boy, Daniel, was a charming little fella. Chubby cheeks, freckles, red curly hair and a cheeky grin that would melt anyone’s heart. I had a lot to do with his elder brother but when Dan was little I was on my own working full-time and living further away, and I didn’t see as much of him as I would have liked, so I made arrangements with my daughter to take Dan to town one Monday holiday and just spoil him for the day.
We took the train ( a , real treat for him as he went everywhere by car) into Circular Quay in Sydney and had a walk around the Quay and the Rocks where I bought the mandatory rubbish that every child cherishes until he gets the next piece of rubbish on offer. From there we caught a fer or flurry as he called it, to Darling Harbour where I took him on the warships and the submarine at the Naval Museum. The periscope in the sub became the hit of the day. When I did manage to tear him away to give someone else a go, it was time for lunch, so we headed for the food court. Isn’t it funny, you can give a child all the choices in the world, but it’s McDonald’s that always wins out. Rather than sit in the crowded food court, we opted to go outside to eat.
I settled on the steps outside the convention centre to eat lunch, and Dan went into the circular pit in front of the building where the children love to play. I could see the red curls bob up and down and he was only a few feet away. All was well but, all of a sudden, there were no red curls bobbing up and down, so I walked to the pit and not only were there no red curls, there was no Daniel. My heart sunk to the pit of my stomach. Where had he gone and how could he just disappear out of site in seconds?
When his mother dropped him off that morning, she apologised for his dress. He insisted he wears his favourite vest which had bold, wide, blue-and-white stripes, but was two sizes too small. What the hell, the child was happy so who cared, so the vest was what I was scanning for through the crowds. He was just nowhere in sight. I didn’t hear a splash, and there was no kerfuffle by the water, so I worked out he wasn’t in there, but where the hell had he gone?
I waited around for about 10 minutes hoping he would come back but, in the end, I knew I needed help. The thought of someone walking away with him made me sick, so I went to the tourism office. The lady behind the counter told me not to worry; it happens all the time, and the Rangers would find him. I gave her a description, and she told me to take a seat and wait. How could I take a seat? So off I went on my own. I decided the place to go was where the rides and stalls were.
By this time I didn’t know if I was Arthur or Martha. I was in tears wandering around like a zombie, and at what point do I call his parents and tell them I didn’t have him with me? So after about half an hour I made my way back to the tourism office hoping for good news and there he was, sitting by the window. He looked up and saw me and waved and there was that smile. Why wasn’t he traumatised? I didn’t know if I should kiss him or kill him. I was told by the ranger who found him he was easy to pick out in his vest.
I was in such a state by now, and Dan was his usual, happy self, but I decided it was time to go home.
His face was getting red from the sun, so I bought him a cap on the way to the train station. He was just completely oblivious to the drama he caused. I couldn’t believe he was so calm.
On the way home on the train, sitting opposite each other, both by the window, he caught a glimpse of himself in the window. He apparently thought he looked so cool in his new cap; he broke out in a cheeky little grin as he was looking at himself and all I could do was laugh at him.
When my daughter got him home, she asked him where he was and what he was doing. He told her he was looking for a phone to call 911 to tell them his Nan had gone off and left him. She told him we don’t call 911 in Australia we call 000. He was most upset when she wouldn’t let him call 000 because he wasn’t lost anymore.
As I said earlier, Dan is almost 21, but we (he) still have conversations about this day. The last time was Christmas Day dinner last year. He still can’t understand (tongue in cheek) why I went off and left him and am I sure I waited around for about 10 minutes for him to come back. He doesn’t think so.
I am really sad to tell you as he grew up his hair became redder and the curls stronger so now his hair is as short as it can be and it’s dyed dark brown because he hates it so much…he still has the freckles and the smile and has developed a wicked sense of humour.
I am close enough to his elder brother to know he will let me babysit…we just won’t tell his mother!