“Is Graham in here?” I hear, foggy, from far away. I roll over, looking in the next bed for my five year old. “No,” I respond, in a sleepy voice. Head back on my pillow, mind already back in my afternoon nap. Some time later, only a few minutes it turns out, another family member, again looking for Graham. “He’s not in here” I tell them. Wide awake now. The third person is my husband, looking for our son, and telling me what I already know. He’s missing.
It’s August, but the weather is dreary. Western Washington is experiencing an unusually cool summer, and we are in town for a family reunion. My in-laws have a big house, and an even bigger family, so there are big kids, little kids, babies, and adults sharing space and enjoying each other’s company. Graham and his three year old sister, Lily are loving being at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. There is a rope swing, cows, a donkey, and tractors. Graham has been spending most of his time with his ten year old cousin, but has been making sure he has permission to go outside with her.
I head upstairs, from the dark and quiet basement. The house is mostly empty. Still. This is unsettling, as there were at least fifteen people here when I put myself down for a nap. Lily is in front of the 60 inch TV watching a cartoon. She looks at me, then back at the show. “Where’s your brother?” I ask her. “I don’t know,” she responds, not taking her eyes off the screen.
I walk outside, and see various family members, wandering the property. Everyone is moving quickly, calling for Graham, actively trying to stay calm. I immediately go to the place I don’t want to go. The creek. Quick and deep, it runs through the ten acre property. There is a wooden bridge that leads over the creek, to the pasture. Looking into the dark water, I don’t see him. His small body isn’t in the tall grasses, and while I know that means nothing, I am able to breathe.
We look everywhere. In the barn, in the gigantic shop, in the drainage ditch that runs parallel to the country road at the front of the property. I go back downstairs to the room we’re sharing with the kids. Maybe he’s in bed, and we just didn’t see him under the comforter? No. I look under both beds, in the closet. No Graham. I look under and in every bed in the house. Every closet. No.
My breath is shallow and I can’t look at anyone’s face. I don’t want to see the panic in their eyes that I’m feeling. I’m not crying, but I’m losing focus. I go back outside, and look in all the vehicles. Back inside, back downstairs, back to our room. Under the beds. Again. Everyone is yelling for him, and my husband is saying, “If you are hiding, you need to come out!” If he’s inside, and if he’s awake, he has to hear us.
Just when I’m about to lose it, his boots are spotted. All of the grandkids got a pair of rain boots for a family picture. He’s been wearing them the entire trip. His green boots with the orange tractors are by the door, and that means he’s inside. He’s been gone about a half an hour, but chances are, he’s here.
I’m back downstairs, back to our room, and I look under the bed. Again. The one spot I check three times. I don’t see him. My sister-in-law does, though. He’s under that bed, tucked against the wall, with his brown blanket covering him. The dark and my panic made me miss him. Three. Times.
I sink to my knees and sob. I gather my boy in my lap, rocking and crying. “I was scared” he says sheepishly. “Afraid I would get in trouble for hiding.” The news quickly spreads that he’s found. Graham spends a few minutes alone with his parents, fending off kisses, admonishments, and more kisses.
We go upstairs, where Lily is still staring at the television. She looks over at us and exclaims, “I found him!”