Anyone aware that Austin has its very own drive-in theatre, right smack off East Sixth? Well, it does. And it’s TheBomb.com. As an early birthday treat, Liam and I planned an evening outing with Noah. I picked Liam up from school, we cleaned out and scrubbed the bed of the truck in the sunshine, and gathered pillows and blankets for our screening under the stars. Upon arrival, we backed into our spot, tuned into the proper FM frequency, and made s’mores over an open flame while watching “Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark” on what was arguably the most picturesque night of the year. Noah uttered words I’d never heard come out of his mouth: I don’t need to work on anything. I feel totally relaxed tonight. Liam told me, through burnt marshmellow and graham cracker crumbs: This is probably the best night ever. Thanks for taking me here. For realsies, could it get any better?
At 10:30 Saturday morning I was driving home and feeling good. I’d just taught Body Pump and the endorphins were swimming around in my brain, and I was headed to Target – shwing! When I arrived at home, it seemed eerily still and quiet. I assumed that Noah and Liam had left for lunch or something, but when I walked into my bedroom, Noah was still passed out under the blankets. Let me explain that 1) Noah will sleep as late as you’ll let him, and 2) Liam is perfectly capable of hanging out and watching some movies/snacking/
making messesplaying on his own for a little while. I would never leave Liam home alone, of course, but we don’t worry about him being awake in the morning when we’re not. Okay, so Noah is asleep. I looked around in Liam’s room and didn’t find him. Concerned because we were supposed to be headed to a birthday party, I woke Noah up.
“Hmmm? He’s here …”
“Where? I can’t find him.”
“He was in here a little while ago. I talked to him. He’s here somewhere.”
“No, really. He’s not in here.”
I was only mildly concerned, as Liam loves to hide from me and typically jumps out of random places that I knew he was hiding behind or in from the start. This time Noah and I both searched, and we both came up empty-handed. Now I was beginning to worry. “Seriously, where is he?” I asked. Noah was as baffled as I. We looked outside and in the cars. I walked down toward the pool. Alarm was turning to panic. Noah got in his car and drove around, although we both knew Liam would never wander off on his own. His bike was inside. So was his scooter. I yelled, “Liam! If you’re inside, you need to come out now! It’s not funny!” Silence. This is when the dread and fear sunk into my stomach, amplifying my panic. I paced around, checking all the same places, completely uncertain what to do. When Noah drove back up shaking his head that he hadn’t found him, I shakily dialed 9-1-1. Police. We can’t find our son. Blonde hair, blue eyes. How long has he been missing? I have no idea …
I was pacing back and forth outside, clutching my phone (because I had no idea what else to do) when the police finally arrived. It was absolutely surreal to hear Liam’s name and description going out and coming in on their walkie-walkie frequency. All I could think about was that we live right next to I-35, and he could be headed anywhere. I was trying hard to control myself, but it was frustrating for the police to try and assure me that he was probably at a friends house (Liam doesn’t have any friends here) or that he probably went to go explore in the woods (he’s too afraid to go out there without Noah). Sure, those explanations sounded perfectly plausible to strangers, but anyone who knows Liam can verify that neither is what happened. Liam knows perfectly well never to leave the house on his own. I could imagine him going to get something out of the car, but if he didn’t come right back … something happened. None of it made any sense. Inside the house, the police continued to ask us questions, looked around in our cabinets and drawers. A couple of officers headed out to the woods. One asked if we had family in town, and if he could be with grandparents. But of course, none of the grandparents would pick him up without telling us. I was feeling more and more sick to my stomach as I realized the police had absolutely no better idea where he was and no better way of finding him than Noah and I did. “Why don’t you call the grandparents and see if they know where he is.” I dreaded those phone calls because they weren’t conversations I wanted to have or even start. I dialed my mom. No answer. I dialed my dad. No answer. I dialed Noah’s dad. “Hey, Ashley.”
“We can’t find Liam. We don’t know where he is. The police are here – ” I hiccuped into the receiver.
“I’ve got him; he’s right here.”
“YOU HAVE HIM?!”
“Yeah, I came by this morning to pick something up. Noah was asleep, I stayed a while. Liam wanted to come over, so Noah said …”
I was flooded with so much relief that not only did we know where Liam was, but he was safe and sound. I absent-mindedly handed the phone off to Noah, mid-conversation. I went into the living and told the officers that we’d found him. After questioning us for a few more minutes, the police left, this time driving without the sirens. Emergency over.
So how, you may ask, did this happen? I’ve got to say, the story only makes less sense by the end. Apparently, Noah was asleep most of the morning. He said he woke up a few times when Liam came in to show him little projects. He even got out of bed to look at the birthday decorations that we’d set up. He was asleep when his dad came over to pick up a computer part he needed. When Liam asked if he could leave with his grandpa, they asked Noah, and he mumbled that it was fine for Liam to go over there. Noah had absolutely no memory of any of this! He doesn’t remember his dad coming over, and he doesn’t remember anyone asking him if Liam could leave. The entire situation still baffles me, but Noah is even more perplexed. For the next few hours, we lay on the carpet, marveling at the event. It was truly traumatizing to both of us. We spent the rest of the day in a daze, feeling entirely shell-shocked. For an entire hour we thought the worst had happened. For sixty minutes, we thought Liam had been taken from us. We thought the absolute worst. At various points during the day, we both mused, “Oh my gosh, what if that was still going on right now? What if he was still missing?” Even now, days later, we’re still stunned.
To sum it up, Liam is home, and we’re still a happy little family. We didn’t end up on Nancy Grace. Thank goodness, because that bitch would have crucified Noah.