At first, I didn't think anything was wrong. Lilian is well known for her tenacity in searching out friends for play. When I came home and Julianne told me she didn't know where Lilian was, I was more irritated by the fact that she had fallen asleep on the job rather than the fact that Lilian was missing. In fact, so certain was I that Lilian was doubtless just down the street, I didn't immediately try to track her down. I had been home a good 10 minutes before I instructed Brandon to find and bring his younger sister home.
But he arrived home empty handed after knocking the doors of the most likely candidates. I was surprised but still not too worried. I called both Rebekah and Julianne, each of whom had left for the evening to be with friends....Rebekah earlier, Julianne shortly after I arrived home. I grilled them, trying to get clues as to where Lilian might have gone. Think hard, I told them. What had she been doing, who had she been with, what had she said? They didn't shed much light on the situation. In fact, if anything I just became more irritated with them for not taking better care of their sister. And so with that irritation dissolving into the first pricks of worry and fear, I gave Brandon more suggestions for houses to check while I started the rounds of text messages and phone calls.
Time passed. Brandon made the rounds on his bike. Texts came in from neighbors by the dozens expressing concern and offering suggestions of houses to check. Lilian's primary teacher drove his car to check the park and other areas throughout the subdivision. Other neighbors came out to help me search on foot. It was cold and getting dark. We had been pounding the pavement for a good 45 minutes with no luck. And with each knock and the subsequent, “No, we haven't seen Lilian...she's not here” the grasp on my emotional control would slip a little further. I was settling uncomfortably into panic and despair, trying desperately not to cry when my friend Mirissa made a comment. “You know,” she said, “we once lost my niece. We looked all over and were so panicked. But it turned out she had hidden under a bed and then fallen asleep there. Is there any chance Lilian might have done something similar?” In my head I doubted it. Lilian doesn't nap easily...and she had slept in this morning. But the emotional side of me grasped onto that idea like a life line and I hoped...oh, how I hoped!
We joined up with Brandon who was coming back on his bike and told him we were going to check the house. The three of us walked in the front door and Brandon ran down the hall to Lilian's room. “She's here!!! She's asleep in her bed” he yelled triumphantly. I could see the little lump of sleeping Lilian and my legs wouldn't hold me anymore. I slumped against the wall in the hallway and slid to the floor, my head in my hands while I bawled out of sheer relief. Mirissa let me cry for a minute or two, then gave me a hug and slipped away. I made the necessary texts and calls to let the concerned neighbors and searchers know that Lilian had been found and to thank them.
Lilian seemed a little confused as to why I wanted to love on her for so long. Sleep befuddled notwithstanding, she knew she hadn't been lost. Why was mom so freaked out? Apparently she had been cold. And when she found Julianne asleep on the couch, she took matters into her own hands...put on her pajamas and climbed under the covers in her bed, eventually falling asleep. When Julianne woke up, all she knew was that Lilian was gone. It didn't ever cross our minds to check the house because why would Lilian put herself to bed at 6:30-7:00 in the evening? Especially when we knew that she had been out and about with friends just slightly earlier. Chalk it up to a life lesson learned. Check the house first, when a child goes missing. You could save yourself a lot of emotional grief...