A summer evening adventure involving lost children and city wildlife

Last night we had an unplanned, somewhat freaky adventure.

After dinner, we I decided that a walk down to the lake might be a nice way to end the day. The kids would have preferred to plug in, but they started a pillow fight so I kicked everyone out to burn off some excess energy and enjoy the less humid evening air.

We walked to the park which has a huge field to the right of the path. They brought along a ball, so I let them play a bit of soccer and continued strolling along the path that turned left toward the lake.

local park in the 'hood

I thought they were behind me.

The path that leads to the lake passes by a beach, then a pond on the other side, followed by another beach. At that point you arrive at a fork in the road: you could walk forward and left and go to a third beach and eventually arrive at a lighthouse on a peninsula, or you could walk straight and go to the marina, or you can walk right and go to the deck that overlooks the pond.

I chose the deck, which was closest to the entrance of the park. By this time I realized the kids weren’t directly behind me but the park with the field was just a couple of minutes further back so I wasn’t worried. Besides, I kinda liked the silence…and I knew that my kids are creatures of habit and would, most likely, want to go to the deck too. Their uncle helped build that deck many moons ago…

The reason I chose to go to the deck was because of the swan’s nest.  I wanted to see if the hatchlings were out yet. Every year, a swan breeds near there on that same pond, and sometimes, there are as many as seven swan babies.

They haven’t hatched yet. Spring was late this year, maybe that’s why it’s taking longer than usual…

It was captivating, watching her sit there. The swan-man was nearby, guarding her, and they let me photograph them without any fluttering. Being so close to the deck they probably are used to it by now…

swan on her eggs in her next

A lady and her teenage daughter showed up and they remarked that there was a duck beside the nest. We looked closer and realized her head was underneath the water, but not coming up. The body of the duck kept struggling and we started to worry that she was drowning. The water was murky, full of weeds and algae (it’s been the driest June in a long time, and the water levels were very low) but there was nothing we could do. The deck was too high up, the duck was literally beside the swan nest, and the male swan was keeping a close eye on the human situation on the deck. Any attempt to approach the nest would have required walking through the swampy water and risk getting stuck in it (much like the duck, probably). Not to mention dealing with a couple of irate swans.

duck under water

This distracted me somewhat, and I (almost) forgot about the missing children.  I mean, they’re 11 and 8, it’s not the end of the world, and they know this park like the back of their hand. Plus it was light out, summer vacation, and warm. I was neither afraid nor apprehensive, and figured at any moment they’d appear. Theoretically, if they saw me walk into the park, they would have seen me on the deck across the pond, since that path led right past the pond with a clear view of the deck.

But this did not happen.

Eventually I came to terms that I could not help the duck and made my way back toward the entrance of the park. I kept looking in all directions for the children. I couldn’t see them, nor hear them, so I assumed they’re still tossing the ball around up in the field.

Nope. They were also not there.

Briefly, it occurred to me that they might have walked toward the lighthouse, which went past a big, open pebble beach. It was further away, but it’s an enticing place for kids who like to be near the water’s edge, or climb big rocks. But a bigger part of me also realized that I have a very cautious boy, who is less likely than his sister to not venture out on his own without permission. And since his sister was with him, and they both know the rules to stay together when alone, I thought it unlikely that they would head that far out without me.

I arrived at the edge of the park, didn’t see anyone resembling my kids, and sat down on the parched, yellow grass. They’re gonna show up any minute, I thought to myself. They’ll arrive with her skipping ahead, and him with a bit of a worried look on his face. I will praise them for staying together and making right choices, I reminded myself.

Besides, I was the one that kept walking when they were still on the field. Technically, I’m the one that left them behind…

As I sat there, my phone suddenly rang. Immediately I knew it would be the kids. And I knew they must have gone home, since neither has a phone…

Sure enough, the number on the phone indicated the land line. Huh.

A very worried boy who sounded relieved to hear my voice explained that when they couldn’t see me anymore, they decided together that it would be best to head home. I asked them, “didn’t you see me go toward the lake?”

Yes, they did, but they were engrossed in their game and didn’t pay much attention. And when I didn’t show up again they just went home.

Funny that they thought I would not return. Had it been me, I probably would have stayed at the field and waited for my mom to return…stay where you first feel lost and the chances of being found increases dramatically, is what I’ve always been told. Especially in a crowded area, like a busy mall, or a carnival. Or at an airport.

But they did nothing wrong. I assured my son that all is well, and that I simply went to the deck assuming they would see me there from the path. “I’m on my way back now”, I said and hung up.

Five minutes later I was home. A very worried girl with big eyes came rushing into my arms, and I asked her if she was scared.

Yes, and Ben too, she said.

Hm.

We had a chat about what happened, and I praised them about making good choices. They stayed together, they problem solved together, they went home instead of come looking for me, and all is well. I did wonder a little why they didn’t think in terms of what I would do when going to the lake. We always go to the deck by the pond…honestly, I was a tad surprised they didn’t see me when they walked that part of the path, past the pond. I know I was looking for them from the deck, I would have waved…and they usually look toward the deck from the path. After all it’s Uncle Pete’s deck…

But it was all good.

I told them about my poor duck which distracted me, and they unleashed their own adventure with the local wildlife. Seems as they entered our backyard, they saw one of the groundhog babies that had been nibbling away at all our vegetables in our patch, and it had some sort of a conniption. “It was crawling sideways and rolling on its back”, my girl exclaimed. “I never saw them do that before!” she explained excitedly.

They showed me where the ‘hog baby was and where he disappeared to, and just as we were returning inside, Ben noticed something else. “Raccoon babies!” he yelled. Right there, two sheds over, were not one, but two little bandits, and a third one on a post. We stayed and watched them for a while, hoping they would not come to our backyard, when a fourth one emerged.

And so ended our little adventure, with a whole lot of wildlife, a little scare of abandonment, and a happy ending.

Perhaps later today, we’ll all walk down to the deck again and check on our poor duck.

 

 

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