This was yesterday. Beautiful, freshly-fallen snow.
There was a two-hour snow delay from school, but I decided to keep the kids home all day since I didn't want to get stuck on the hill in my minivan like last year.
Gabe was the first to get bundled up to go out in it. The cousins-down-the-hill had invited them over to sled in their yard, and so I sent him out bravely alone, down the back path to their house, telling him to stay off the roads as much as possible (due to skidding vehicles).
(Their house is down in that valley just beyond the line of arborvitae trees.)
After Gabe left, I started thinking: "I hope he gets there okay. I'd better call down there and make sure he made it. Make sure he's not lying in a crevice somewhere with a broken leg." (There are not many crevices in between our house and theirs, but you have to leave room for a mama's overactive imagination.)
Well, I didn't call down there. Instead, I busied myself in the kitchen. My older girls woke up and wanted to eat. Then they also wanted to head down to go sledding.
I bundled them up and sent them out, adding as an afterthought: "Olivia, help your little sister down the hill and if for some reason Gabe is not at the cousins' house, please call me so I can search the crevices for him."
Ten minutes later, Olivia came home to put on more clothes. About five minutes into this endeavor she mentioned, "Oh, and Anna's waiting down in the Taylor's yard so she didn't have to come up the hill."
"I don't know. I didn't see him. The cousins were leaving when we got there."
"And you didn't see Gabe?"
"No, I didn't see him at all."
"He's not down playing in the cousins' yard?"
Now, usually, I'm not a freak-out-first-think-later type of person. Usually I would have used my brain instead of my emotions to make a rational decision about what to do next. However, due to recent sleep deprivation and I'm sure the added hormonal imbalance of being eight months pregnant, I totally flipped out.
"Quick! Get your clothes on! Sophie! We need to get dressed! We need to go out and find your brother who's lost in the snow!"
Several minutes later, Sophie, Olivia and I are slipping and sliding down the back path towards the cousins' house, checking the crevices. The path was very steep and covered in at least a foot of snow. After our first joint fall, Sophie was screaming. After our second joint fall, I was wailing like a banshee: "Olivia, please heeeelp me!" Olivia came to our rescue several times, saving me once from falling into a crevice.
We got down to the Taylor's yard, met up with Anna. I asked our neighbor if she'd seen Gabe, but she hadn't. We traipsed down the road toward the cousins' house. Sophie slipped on the icy road, and after that couldn't stop crying.
We arrived to find the cousins' car still in the driveway and most of the cousin population out in the front yard.
My first hollered question was: "Have you seen Gabe?"
Abby, the oldest, responded: "Aunt Amy, we can't play right now. We're leaving, but we'll be back in a few minutes to--"
"We are not here to play," I cried. "I want to know - have you seen Gabe?"
"Oh yeah, he's playing inside."
"My mom just told him he has to leave, so he's getting his shoes on."
This is where the extent of my idiocy sunk in. I saw Gabe wrestling with his mittens in the doorway. My heart did that flip-flop of relief and ... the kind of frustration that comes after suffering through something completely unnecessary.
Morals to this story:
(1) Never rely completely on a nine-year-old's version of a story. They are usually a little confused.
(2) If there is snow on the ground, whenever possible use a phone to confirm said nine-year-old's story. (In this case, "the cousins are leaving" meant, "the cousins are leaving in the next half hour." For some reason, I heard it as: "the cousins are in the car, pulling out of the driveway.")
(3) Maybe it's better not to send a seven-year-old alone down a snowy slope when there are crevices involved.
We all survived. We limped back up the hill, but by road this time (because I realized everyone in our small town was staying home so there weren't a whole lot of skidding vehicles about). Sophie cried all the way. I looked like a bag-lady in my off-center beanie, my gaping coat, and yoga pants tucked into my boots. But we made it home alive. No one fell into a crevice. No bones were broken. No babies were prematurely born.
And for that, in this week when we focus on gratefulness, I am thankful.