This past weekend we took to the kids to Galveston to celebrate Monkey’s 6th Birthday.
One of the things we were all looking forward to was visiting the newly opened boardwalk – The Pleasure Pier. Filled with rides, carnival games, music and carnival food – basically a 6-year-old’s idea of Heaven.
Monkey was actually tall enough to ride nearly every single ride that his little heart desired. His eyes glowed with excitement and his squeals of delight were easily heard over the call of the barkers and the music from the rides.
Nathan and I went on every single ride with them, soaring through the air in swings, swinging up and down over the ocean and even watching the sun set from a bucket high above the water atop the ferris wheel.
It was a perfect evening — one of those days that seem to sparkle and live vividly in memory for the rest of your life.
Once the sun set, the pier turned into a sparkling wonderland.
We were winding down, but the kids wanted to do the water ride ONE LAST TIME! Nathan and I readily agreed – they’d handled doing it alone so well the last time. We had watched them zig zag through the maze of bars to get to the front of the line, we watched them board and then once they were off, we realized that the exit to the ride and the entrance to the ride were a good 100 yards apart. We walked to the spot marked exit … and we waited.
Bounding down the exit ramp into our arms came two damp and excited children.
That’s what happened the first time they road the log ride.
The second time, I stayed at the exit and Nathan walked the kids to the entrance, he watched them walk in and once again make their way through the maze towards the log boarding area…
Nathan came and joined me at the exit where we stood arms stuffed with prizes and toys. We talked about the day, our favorite parts and how truly blessed we are to be able to do things like this with our kids.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
Group after group of wet kids and adults swept past us as they exited the ride.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
Person after giggling person wringing out their hair and grabbing their loved ones hand passed us by.
My heart started to beat faster and my breath caught in my chest.
That’s too long.
Nathan rushed through the people exiting the ride and ducked under bars and barriers until he got to the ride and to security – I could see the color drain from his face when our children were nowhere to be seen.
I think I stopped breathing when I saw him come back from the exit with security in tow and no children in sight.
Tears pricked the back of my eyes and fear clawed it’s way up my spine.
“He said there are two children with security by the bathrooms” – Those words came tumbling out of Nathan’s mouth seconds before he turned and rushed down the pier.
I took off after him.
We pushed our way through the crowded, dark boardwalk.
Tears threatened to spill from my eyes as wordless prayers soared up from my heart and the possibility of not seeing my children again … I could barely stand to allow those thoughts to take form…
I cannot describe the relief that rushed through my body when I saw that blonde head and little brown head standing with the two security guards by the bathrooms.
That feeling of relief still brings tears rushing to my eyes as I write this days later, and it still causes my hands to tremble and my heart to speed up.
Thank God that my children listened when I told them over and over throughout their lives: “If you ever get separated from Dad or me, stay together and find a policeman, a fireman, someone who works there. Tell them you’ve lost your parents”
Thank God that my 8-year-old has both mine and my husband’s cell phone numbers memorized and can repeat them perfectly, even under stress.
Thank God for the Pleasure Pier and it’s very large security presence and wonderfully quick thinking staff who took our children to a well lit place and proceeded to call our cell phones over and over again to let us know they had our children (even though we didn’t hear the phones ringing)
How did they get lost? We didn’t lose them, they lost us.
They decided once they were at the front of the line for the log ride, that they didn’t want to ride that ride again, they wanted to do something else. These two confident, independent children walked OUT the entrance and went to another ride – only to realize they couldn’t find us. They walked hand in hand down the pier a bit more, and when they still couldn’t find us, they found security.
I cannot stress the importance of your children knowing your cell phone numbers – home number is great – unless you aren’t there. If your children are young or cannot remember your phone number, there are bands and tattoos that you can have specially printed for occasions just like this.
I will be making Monkey repeat our cell phone numbers back to us every day on the way home from school until he knows them by heart.
I am so thankful that they day my children disappeared is also the day I got them back.
Read more of Rachel Matthews’ writing about food, parenting, life and Texas at A Southern Fairytale
You May Also Like: