Friday, November 30, 2012
I thought today's mindful giving would be a breeze. I figured I had it in the bag and wouldn't need to give it a second thought. Boy, was I wrong.
See, in my family, for no clear reason, December First is an extra-holiday that we celebrate. It started long ago in our childhoods and has since snowballed into an annual family tradition. We gather together, dine, and have a bout of giving gifts that prepare for the holiday season. So our typical December First presents are things like little decorations or candles. I give the girls games or holiday DVDs and CDs or craft activities. That kind of thing.
It's a day I really enjoy so it has grown year after year. I love to shop for December First gifts in the after-Christmas 70% and 80% discounts. I'll even buy the gifts, wrap and label them and then box them up to wait for the whole year to pass. It was fun last night to watch people open gifts that I had completely forgotten buying!
Now we often have 30 or more gifts to exchange among us, so it's very much like doing a whole Christmas on the first day of the month. Last night I roasted two chickens, made potatoes and butternut squash -- a whole festive meal.
Anyway, I figured that more than covered my day's giving. So imagine my surprise when I was called upon to be heroic. My most important gift yesterday was finding a lost little girl and returning her to her hysterical mother.
I picked my daughter up after school as usual. I stood around talking for a while with a friend, then went to ask one of the teachers about an audition packet for the spring musical. She took me into the office to find a copy, and as B and I were waiting, we noticed that a mom was standing in front of the school crying and talking on a cellphone.
"I can't find her anywhere," she was yelling. "She's gone!"
The office staff started buzzing around their desks in a very worried manner, calling up the substitute teacher and the afterschool duty aides and trying to figure out who saw this mom's daughter last. The principal strode out the door looking very worried as B and I grabbed our paperwork and decided to get out of everyone's way.
As we walked to the car, we could hear the mom sobbing and screaming, in a full hysterical panic. My daughter rubbed my arm, "That's really sad," she said.
"Hey, Mom? I really love you."
"I know sweetie. I love you too. I'm glad you're here."
It bothered both of us as we drove away. You know, I thought, if that was my child I wouldn't be getting hysterical just yet. I would be looking for her.
"Hey, B? How about if we drive by the back of the school and just see if we notice a girl or anything going on? It doesn't seem like anyone's really checked that."
My daughter was in total agreement. So we turned away from our house and cruised slowly past the school. Nothing.
I didn't think it was very likely that the girl had been abducted. But I thought she might have tried to go home with a friend and not told her mom yet. So I turned into the nearest neighborhood, looking for kids.
And there she was. In a yard on the corner, playing with two boys.
After a short conversation, it turned out that she thought she was waiting for her grandmother to pick her up. She came right up to my car, even though she should know better. So I called the school and told them she was safe. Then my daughter and I walked her back to the back gate.
The principal was there by then, striding across the soccer field with a look of immense relief on his face. "Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you," he called five times.
My daughter and I headed home feeling both relieved and rather proud of ourselves. Before you panic, take some time to think it through and work through the logical options. There will always be plenty of time to cry and scream later if it's still necessary.