Of course, you can guess what was coming (!) and where that lotion was applied. We were no longer laughing. In fact, we were very much four 11 year old children. We looked at each other, again counted to 3 and then up and ran. We ran and ran and kept running, didn't look back, and went straight through the park back onto the road, in the sunlight. Ahh, the safe sunlight. We didn't talk until we had stopped running and calmed ourselves into a brisk walk. At first we wondered whether to go straight to the police, to immediately tell our parents, what should we do...? The further we walked, the funnier it became. We wondered if in fact he hadn't seen us. It became more dreamlike, more exciting. We decided that it should become our secret and we gave it a codeword of 007 - because it felt like something out of a Bond movie. That logic makes no sense now but we thought we were brilliant.
Of course, when we returned to school after the summer we told anyone that would listen. We were legends!
We didn't however tell our parents. Nor did we didn't tell the police. Why? Because that would have involved explaining why we were sitting in the woods and that was more scary to us than the threat of a predator. Ahh, how a child's mind works...
This morning I awoke to the story of Somer Thompson.
Her 10-year-old sister told police that Somer had gotten into a fight with another girl at school earlier in the day. The sister said she brought up the fight while she and her brother walked Somer home from school, and that Somer ran off from them, apparently upset. According to the police report the sister said she lost sight of Somer in a group of other kids leaving the school. Her body was found in a landfill yesterday.
Her incredibly strong mother was interviewed this morning and when asked what she would say to other parents she talked of two things.
1) To teach your child about 'stranger danger'.
2) To take an extra two seconds to tell your child you love them because you never know what the day will hold.
Now, my daughter is 8 months old and her whereabouts is still in my hands. I can talk to her about being cautious around new people and not to assume that any stranger is safe. I can teach her to stay on the beaten path. That there are wicked people everywhere and sadly, not always strangers.
However, remembering that experience reminded me that as a child I would feel everything first. Emotion would totally overrun thought. I was actually more concerned about that stranger feeling embarrassed rather than thinking about my own danger. I can tell you that I knew of "stranger danger" but it didn't occur to me that this (at first) 'normal' looking stranger, that could have passed for a teacher, that didn't pull up in a car asking for directions, that wasn't offering me sweets, was in fact a "dangerous stranger" Stupid? Perhaps. Naive? Maybe. Childlike. Yes.
Whatever the details, whatever took Somer off the beaten path we may never know.
Today, however, I'm going to heed the words of a mother that does know and take two extra seconds to love on my little and big ones. To honor those parents with empty arms tonight.
Rest in peace, little one.