Shannon Bardwell: Finders keepers, losers weepers

May 15, 2010 9:47:00 PM

Shannon Bardwell - [email protected]


While eating lunch in my car at the city parking lot across from the Baptist church, I spotted a small boy about the age of 4 walking with great purpose. He was on the sidewalk passing by "Fourth Estate."  


More interesting than the boy, was my bird''s eye view of passersby both on foot and in cars. Each person would stare and then proceed on. One car actually stopped, looked and drove away. The small boy continued toward the YMCA. 


I might have just watched except that I had a friend tell me her child escaped daycare and walked two city blocks to the funeral home. The child explained that she remembered her grandmother was there. Go figure. 


My friend said, "No one thought this the least bit odd, a 3-year-old walking down a busy main street and crossing alone?" 


So, thinking this odd, I sprung out of the car and sprinted across the street like Superwoman. I zipped through the parking lot just as a smiling woman was holding the door open within spitting distance of a swimming pool. I hollered out and ran to the child. When I swept him into my arms and his smiling face met mine I realized he was probably autistic. I explained to the lady, "I''m not his mother. I think he''s alone."  


Inside I searched for someone in charge and asked if they recognized the boy. A man told me I couldn''t leave the boy there. I replied I had no intentions of leaving him. Apparently you cannot leave a child at the "lost and found" like a pair of sneakers. 


Soon a frantic young mother arrived with another child on her hip. Through tears and hiccups she explained that the boy had opened a locked door and escaped. My heart went out to her; she was so small and frail that carrying the weight of one child seemed daunting.  


We walked the few blocks to her home, one child on her hip, and the escapee on mine. Mine planted a big slobbery kiss on my cheek.  


She sniffed, "He never does that to strangers." I questioned how she knew where to look for him. She said, "He always pulls that way when we leave the house. He likes to go swimming." Even so, I think her motherly instinct kicked into overdrive. 


"Didn''t anybody see him? This is a busy intersection, how could he cross it by himself?" she asked and sniffed.  


He has a guardian angel, I told her. She looked thoughtful, "Someone else told me that."  


When everything calmed down I left her amid her profuse expressions of gratitude. I returned a few days later and learned more about the fortitude of this amazing young mother. She was no weeping willow.  


I also noticed there was a very large, very high, and very shiny deadbolt on the front door.  


Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.