Little Boy Lost by
(8 Stories)

Prompted By Close Calls

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Too often I behave like a very overanxious  parent or grandparent, but it took me many years to develop this  neurotic condition.. When my kids were growing up I encouraged   them to cultivate  a good balance of risk taking and safety.  When they  broke a bone or needed stitches, I was pretty calm.  But there was one  memorable  incident when I lived in a space of full blown alarm and panic.

I left the big bad city for a safe haven.

In November, 1976 we moved from a 2 bedroom apartment in the Bronx, New York  to a  house in a Westchester suburb.  I had always been a “city girl” and eventually did return to the urban life  20 years later, but when my children were small I suddenly  had the  urge for more space and a yard.  And a washing machine.

I made a very good adjustment to the suburban way of life and was pretty content.  Alarming news of the increase in the  crime rate in New York City  made me feel  that we had made good  decision.

One beautiful summer day, we invited friends, who lived in Queens, to join us for a barbecue.  I  recall them pulling up in our driveway  and  my husband Lenny and I greeting  and chatting with them. I thought my children, Mindy age 5, and Josh, age 3  were in the house, and we all walked back in to prepare for the barbecue.. As we were getting ready, I called to the children, but only Mindy appeared.  I shouted Josh’s name but he never came, so   I went  to look for him.   He wasn’t in his room and my husband Lenny  joined me in the search.  We looked through the entire house, from  the attic fo the basement,, but Josh was nowhere to be found. I asked Mindy if she knew where Josh was, but she said she did not know.

I tried to keep calm and we  got the idea that perhaps he had gone  to the small park across the street.   Lenny and I went into the park and spoke to  a little girl  who knew Josh.  I asked her if she had seem him.  She told us she saw him walking in the opposite direction of our house and that’s when  we started to be quite concerned.  We knocked on the doors of a few neighbors, without success.  We  then called the  local police  and they came quickly.  Lenny and I  got into the   patrol car,  and rode with them around the neighborhood .

After searching the area,  Josh was still  nowhere to be found. I was on the verge of hysteria and my husband, usually the calmer parent when it come to the children,  was also very anxious.  We came back to the house, and I started to think of the  possibilities, all of them not good:  he had been kidnapped, he was dead in a ditch somewhere or he had climbed  into the old refrigerator in our basement and suffocated.  (I checked that out immediately and eliminated that possibility.)  New York City suddenly seemed so much safer than this picturesque suburban village.

A few minutes later Mindy called to us that she  had found him!  And there he was, fast asleep,  completely  hidden behind an open door leading to a  small mud room.  The kids had been playing “hide and go seek”  and  when Mindy could not find him in this game, he had dozed off!! When I had asked her earlier  if if “she knew where Josh was”, she was truthful.    Of course she didn’t know where he was!   They had played  a game of “hide and seek” and he had found the best hiding spot in the house!

Profile photo of Sara Gootblatt Sara Gootblatt

Characterizations: been there, funny, moving, well written


  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    Terrifying and cute, all rolled into one. Of course you couldn’t find him, as he was hiding and in a really good spot, but then, poor fellow, he was just exhausted by the effort of finding the perfect spot, never realizing the panic he’d put you through. What relief you must have felt. It sounds a bit funny now, but certainly not at the time. Did he wake up dazed by all the commotion around him?

  2. Marian says:

    Whew, Sara, what anxiety and what a good resolution to the story. I love how your daughter was honest but literal! The photo of your children is darling.

  3. Suzy says:

    Sara, great story! You were terrified, but he was in the house the whole time. Your daughter should probably have mentioned that they were playing hide and go seek, but she just answered the question you asked her, like a typical 5-year-old. I also love the comment that it took you many years to develop your neurotic condition. 🙂 Thanks for sharing this story and the adorable picture of your kids.

    • I spoke to my daughter as I was working on the story. She remembered the incident vividly, the frantic actions of her parents and the visiting friends, but NOW she questioned why she did not say that they were playing. Too late, but it made for a memorable family story. I think the incident taught me a great deal about how children answer questions. Of course, like my daughter, some answer literally. But the little girl in the park, was another mystery to me. Why did she mislead us? I believe I figured it out not much later when there was a nursery school sex scandal in Mablewood, NJ. It was a big deal and I remember commentators saying “children do not lie”. But from my experience with with the little girl in the park, I knew that children often tell you what they think you want to hear.

  4. Laurie Levy says:

    Sara, I could really relate to this story. The same child I almost lost in Israel was playing with a friend in our house under the supposed supervision of a babysitter. I paid the sitter and asked her where the kids were. Upstairs. But they weren’t anywhere I looked. Finally, I heard a soft pounding from the third floor of our house. My daughter and her friend had locked themselves into the bathroom. Needless to say, we never had that sitter again.

  5. Reading this story, as soon as I got to the part about the little girl in the park, a feeling came over me and sure enough played itself out. I was itching to comment and see that you already spoke of it. I was thinking in terms of the McMartin Preschool sex abuse case, which was in my neck of the woods and also proved false but nevertheless extremely destructive as with a spate of such “scandals” across the country. Thankfully for your family, your little guy was simply asleep and not part of such a thing, real or imagined.

  6. Sara, All of us parents have been there.
    We once lost Noah when he was 3 or 4 on a Hamptons beach. One moment he was playing in the sand near my beach chair, band the next he was no where in sight.

    More frantic by the minute, . I ran to the nearest lifeguard station. . The lifeguard asked for a description – age,v hair color, clothing, etc and he walkie-talked it down the line.

    Sure enough a lifeguard some distance down the beach reported he had found a wandering child and excitedly I listened to the description.

    It didn’t fit at all but I was desperately trying to convince myself that my child DID have blond hair (Noah’s hair is brown) and he WAS wearing a red bathing suit (Noah’s suit was blue) when Danny found him playing in the dunes.

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