Story of the (Almost) Lost Child* by
50
(96 Stories)

Prompted By Close Calls

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We went to Paris and Israel in 1984, the year our son turned thirteen. It was a wonderful trip marred by a few unforeseen catastrophes, the greatest of which was almost losing his little sister. Our daughters were ten and seven, and it was our youngest who gave me one of the most frightening close calls of my life. Under the supervision of six adults, she managed to disappear in the crowded market place of the Old City in Jerusalem. With us and then gone.

Allow me to back up a bit to several bad luck omens that foreshadowed the main event. A few days before we were due to depart for Paris, our youngest daughter came down with chicken pox. Her brother had never had it and her older sister had it a couple of years before. So, why now? The only French-speakers in our home were our two older kids, who refused to help us as we called the Paris hotel to explain we would be arriving later than our reservation date. After saying, “Hello oui,” back and forth for several minutes, my husband was somehow able to explain we would be checking in several days later than planned. Amazingly, we were also able to change our flight to Paris without much fuss.

We were sure she had recovered from chicken pox, but on the way to the airport she vomited in the car. Undeterred because she was often car sick, and now we only had three days to see all of Paris, we boarded the plane. I had the privilege of sitting next to her as she vomited during most of the flight. Once in Paris, she declared she felt better and we ran from one sight to another, trying to do the grand tour in three days. I think we spent a total of an hour rushing through the Louvre, seeing the Mona Lisa and Winged Victory. At any rate, the kids were satisfied that they had seen Paris, and we met my parents in Israel for the rest of the trip.

Proof we were in Paris

My father’s sister and her family lived on Kibbutz Ein Dor, where we all stayed. Every child there seemed to have chicken pox but they ran freely, played, and swam together. One of the pluses of communal living. On the down side, our middle child, who was immune to the pox, picked up a nasty intestinal virus there. No problem. She had what everyone was having, a painful antibiotic shot in her butt. After suffering this indignity, she was no longer a huge fan of kibbutz life.

My uncle drove all of us to Jerusalem to take in the sights and shop for a tallit for our son’s upcoming bar mitzvah. There were nine of us, but somehow, we crammed into a large vehicle for the trip. In the old city of Jerusalem, we wandered down crowded pathways looking for a shop my aunt recommended. My parents and uncle were bringing up the rear of our procession and, I assumed, watching my youngest daughter. When my aunt turned left to go down a side path into the store, we all followed. But apparently, everyone was so busy talking that it was only when I screamed in a panic, “Where’s Dana,” that the awful truth dawned on us. Busy socializing, her guardians didn’t notice that she kept walking straight ahead when everyone else turned left.

Our tour group minus my uncle and father, who were taking pictures

This was a disaster of Home Alone proportions. She didn’t speak the language or know where we were staying. I have no idea if she realized she was lost until I ran down the street screaming her name at the top of my lungs. At some point she heard me, stopped about a block from where I was, and burst into tears. I couldn’t believe my luck in finding her so quickly. If she hadn’t heard me or had turned down a different lane, or went with the proverbial evil stranger… I was shaken to my core.

I learned many lessons from this close call. I should have had a paper in her pocket with her name and contact information in Israel. I should have held her hand myself rather than assuming others would look out for her. I should have talked to all of my children about what to do if they became separated from us. I will never forget the panic I felt once I realized she was lost, and I am forever grateful that her ear was tuned to the sound of her mother screaming her name.

A happier moment prior to the lost episode

*My shout out to Elena Ferrante, whose Neapolitan Novels I adored.

I invite you to read my book Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real and join my Facebook community.

Profile photo of Laurie Levy Laurie Levy
Boomer. Educator. Advocate. Eclectic topics: grandkids, special needs, values, aging, loss, & whatever. Author: Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real.

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Characterizations: been there, right on!, well written

Comments

  1. Laurie, I feel you pain, we parents have all had those terrifying moments when your heart stops and sinks to your toes!

    My husband once came home early while I was in the kitchen cooking dinner. Our son was old enough to take a bath unsupervised , and I told Danny to go and surprise him in the tub.

    Then I heard Danny scream out Noah’s name. The kid was lying face-down in the bath water, but in his panic what Danny didn’t see was Noah’s new Scuba-diving tube poking out of the water beside his head.

    The kid surfaced and my husband’s heart jumped back into place!

  2. Oh, Laurie, even now my heart goes out to you! Every parent’s worst nightmare, and most of us have had a similar experience, or at least that moment of panic when you’re afraid you’ve lost your child. Evoked memories of reading “The Deep End of the Ocean” (Jacquelyn Mitchard)…so thankful your story had a happy ending!

  3. Marian says:

    Oh, my, Laurie, what an ordeal! I can’t imagine the angst you felt. The only analogy, which I heard about afterward, was when my sweetheart took his three grandchildren to a water park near Sacramento (they would have been about 10, 7, and 4 at the time). The youngest is hearing impaired and so took his hearing aids off to play in the water and somehow was separated from the others. Dick searched in vain, but fortunately Jacob, the oldest, found him about 20 minutes later.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Marian, that must have been awful for Dick. My child in a foreign country was in a similar predicament. I also worry about my non-verbal granddaughter getting lost. We have tried tattoos, which she rubbed off, and bracelets or necklaces, but she hates jewelry. Going to a zoo with her always made me very anxious.

  4. Suzy says:

    Oh Laurie, what a terrifying experience! Not only can I empathize, but you have reminded me of a close call I had when my third child got lost and we were so frightened until we found her. After I read and comment on everyone else’s stories, I will be writing a lost child story myself. Stay tuned!

  5. Betsy Pfau says:

    Laurie, this almost qualifies for last week’s prompt, the vacation from hell! Thank goodness you found your daughter so quickly. This could so easily have been a bad made-for-TV movie! Your descriptions and photos are great, though.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Actually, it was a great vacation in many ways. As with your trip to Israel, despite the missteps and almost losing our daughter, we had a great time with my family there. Climbing Masada was a really spiritual experience and probably more of a Bar Mitzvah for our son than the one he had at home a few months later. Traveling with young kids is definitely a trip vs a vacation. Once, we took them all to Disney where they became sick, one after the other. After 3 days of staying in a motel room with them (it felt a bit like sheltering in place does now), we decided to fly home on Christmas Day. I had forgotten about that one for the previous prompt!

  6. At no other time did I feel such a strong need to check the box “been there” as I did after reading your story. Having been to the market in Jerusalem, I could visualize how really frightening this was for you. The labyrinth of confusing streets and knowing that your daughter did not speak the language was terrifying to think of. ( I don’t think they had a “lost and found” in the souk. ) I also love how you described the group behavior in the kibbutz . Social distancing would never work there. You were a bit of a laggard compared to Art Buchwald’s the “6 minute Louvre”, an hysterical piece from a great comic writer. if you never read it, google it and have a good laugh. You certainly will have the urge to check a box labeled “been there”!

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Thanks for the tip on “6 minute Louvre” — I love Art Buchwald and need to find a good laugh today. Thanks for understanding just how terrifying that experience was for me, Sara. Just zoomed with my Israeli cousins who grew up on the kibbutz but moved to private housing. They are quarantined just as we are. They also hate their leader (Netanyahu), so lots of parallels to life here these days.

  7. Laurie, I could write several negative comments about Bibi. I’ve internalized my mother’s warning , “avoid being a ‘shanda for the goyim’ ” Anytime a Jew commits a crime (Madoff) or is immoral (Steven Miller) it brings shame on the tribe. Bib is an embarrassment. I’m pleased to hear that you have relatives who are not fans.

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