This is how it happens.

It was a typical Sunday night here at (not) our house.
The boys were in the garage jamming with their guitars and drums; Tony was doing some cleaning in there while Gabby danced around listening to her brothers rock out with their instruments. I was in the house sniffing the steak to make sure it hadn’t gone bad.
I went into the garage and asked Tony to come inside so that I could have him sniff the steak (because I am paranoid when it comes to meat and always think it smells bad and must be rotten.) I told the boys “I need your dad for one minute, keep an eye on your sister while she’s in here with you.”
“Ok, Mom, we will.”
Tony followed me inside and the great “The Steak is Bad!! IS NOT!!” debate began.
“It smells fine, it’s not bad.”
“I think it smells funny.”
“Well, you always think meat smells bad. You’re a paranoid freak about meat.”
“Well, better to be safe than end up with food poisoning from bad meat.”
“Fine! I’ll cook it for YOU, but I’m not feeding that to my children. I’ll go get them something for dinner.”
I started to season the steak when Tony came up behind me to tell me he didn’t want THAT spice on it but THIS spice.
So, I let him take over steak seasoning duties and I headed over to the TV to turn on Celebrity Fit Club.
About 5, no more than 10 minutes had passed since Tony had come inside and left Gabby with her brothers in the garage. I got this really weird feeling in the pit of my stomach that I needed to make sure she was ok, because as much as the brothers love her, sometimes they forget they’re supposed to be watching her (which is why I never ask them to watch her for more than a few minutes at a time.)
“I’m going to go check on the kids, I need to make sure the boys are paying attention to their sister.”
Tony followed behind me.
The garage door is immediately to your left when you open the front door, so I opened up the screen, looked at Andrew who was holding his electric guitar in his lap and said “Is your sister ok?”
“She’s not here. I thought she went with you guys.”
“Are you kidding? I told you to keep an eye on her while I talked with your dad.”
“I know, but I thought she went inside with you.”
Tony ran out front to see if she was there. I ran inside to see if she had snuck inside. I began to search all of the rooms and didn’t see her.
I ran back outside, where my husband and the boys were frantically searching all over the yard. We were all screaming “GABBY!? GABBY?”
I ran back inside thinking maybe she was hiding in her brothers room or something silly like that. Ethan had ran inside with me and I turned to him and screamed “WHERE IS SHE, ETHAN? OH MY GOD, WHERE IS SHE?”
He started to cry.
“I don’t know, Mom.”
I could hear Tony and Andrew screaming for her outside.
I was trying to stay calm, because I have a history of overreacting (OMG! BEES!) and surely, my little girl wasn’t really missing! So no need to lose my fucking mind!
But then, I heard my husband shout out to the neighbor down the street in a frightened, hysterical voice, “Have you seen a little girl?!?”
And my heart stopped.
And I felt the room spinning
And I felt like I was going to throw up, or pass out, or die.
I ran back outside.
Andrew was crying and saying “Oh my God, Gabby.”
Tony was white as a ghost.
Ethan was crying while riding around on his bike screaming “GABBY.”
“Go call 911” he shouted at me.
I ran inside, head was spinning, heart was pounding out of my chest and all I could think was “this can not be happening. This can NOT BE HAPPENING TO MY FAMILY.”
I was shaking so violently that I could barely pick up the phone.
At the exact moment that I heard the operator answer my call (“What’s your emergency?”) I heard my husband scream “Y! I found her! I found her!”
“I thought our little girl was missing, but we found her, we found her!”
I began to sob as I hit my knees because they were so weak they could no longer support my weight.
Tony ran inside and brought her to me while the 911 operator was asking me a few questions.
I hung up with her and asked him where he found her. “Where was she?”
“She was in my car, playing around in the backseat.”
Apparently, while he was running around outside frantically screaming her name, he heard her little voice, but couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. Then, he turned towards his car and saw her little beanie bouncing around in the backseat of his car. (His car was parked on the curb just in front of our house.)
You see, she loves to play inside of the car. Sometimes, I’ll take her outside, we’ll climb in my van and I’ll let her play with the steering wheel while I listen to talk radio. And sometimes Tony will let her play inside of his car while he’s washing it. So, the little princess had walked out of the garage, headed down the driveway, walked over the grass, stood on the curb, opened up the car door, climbed in, shut the door behind her and was having a Party For One in the backseat totally clueless the to fact that her entire family, the people who love her more than anything else in the world, were frantically looking for her thinking she had been snatched by a stranger. (Because that is what we ALL thought.)
The only other time that I have been as scared as a parent is when Ethan almost drowned in our neighbor’s swimming pool.
It felt as though hours had passed by in those moments where we couldn’t find our little girl, but in reality, the entire ordeal lasted less than 10 minutes. And in those 10 minutes, I thought of so many awful things that could have happened to her and I thought of all of the times where I hadn’t paid enough attention to her and all of the times that I had been angry with her for stupid things that don’t really matter.
Tony handed her to me, I started to cry and kiss her all over and tell her how much I loved her and how she should never climb into daddy’s car without telling us first and how I’ll never complain again about how ever since she started wanting to wear make up and “be pretty like mommy” all of my lipsticks look like this.

And then, we all sat down as a family to talk about how important it is to obey your parents if they tell you to “watch your sister” for a few minutes, but more importantly, how we should hug each other more, kiss each other more, tell each other how much we love each other more because life is crazy and life as you know it can change in a split second and you never, ever want to regret how you treated the people who you love the most.

76 thoughts on “This is how it happens.

  1. Zoot

    I’m crying now, I’ll have you know. I could feel your pain and I”m so glad everything is okay. I’m so sorry you went through that. ((((HUGGGSSS))))

  2. Melina

    OMG Y, that scared the living crap out of me as well, I had to jump to the bottom before I even finished to find out if she was okay, once I knew then i went back up and read the whole thing.
    I cannot imagine what those 10 minutes must have felt like, I’m so glad she is okay. My heart is pumping and I don’t even know you.

  3. Mom101

    The only comfort I took in reading this totally terrifying account was in reminding myself that if everything did not turn out ok, you wouldn’t have opened with an anecdote about steak.

  4. Jennifer

    I know exactly how you feel Y. One time my husband woke up and found our then to be 8 year old “missing”, we were running around the house shouting for him and I was getting panicky and crying and the little shit was HIDING! under the desk.. I tell you I was glad to see him but I could of beat his ass at the same time! LOL!

  5. Annika

    Oh my god. I held the baby so tight while I was reading this. (Seriously, he got a little mad.)
    I’m so proud of you for taking the opportunity to talk to the boys about responsibility, and for focusing on the important thing – how much you all love each other. You are setting such a good example! I hope I can be so calm and thoughtful if anything so scary ever should happen to us.

  6. Les~

    Holy bat crapman! I know you were ALL scared to death in those moments of the “not knowing”. I’m soooo glad that she was found safe and sound in the car! Sooo soooo scary!

  7. Tuesday

    I have not seen my kids for a minute where that panic creeps right in and I freak out. It is scary, things do go wrong, bad things do happen.
    It is important to remind each other how much they mean to us and enjoy each other while we are all together.
    I am glad your little girl is safe.

  8. Tracy

    K. If you ever again dis your writing skills, I’m going to fly back out to Cali, find you, and slap you. You took ALL of us to the same place you were, and my stomach is still all topsy turvy and I feel like throwing up. I am SO glad you found her and she was ok.
    And also, I can’t quit thinking about those little boys on the east coast somewhere who were playing in the trunk of their parents car, and died, because they couldn’t get out and it got too hot. GAH.
    Raising children is NOT for wusses.

  9. Nina

    OMG! I would have totally freaked out!
    So glad she was there!! (My stomach started hurting while I was reading this.)
    If my kids are out of my sight or ear shot for more than like 5 seconds, my heart stops and I immediately think “oh crap where’d they go!?!”

  10. geeky

    wow, that is scary! but i’m glad you found her ok. i’m sure every family has their moments like that. once when my brother was little, we left him at the library because none of us noticed he with us when we left!

  11. Katie

    **HUGS** You must have been scared out of your mind!!! I also knew that Gabby was OK because of the steak story, so I wasn’t totally freaked out 🙂

  12. Rachael

    How very scary! I’m glad she was found safe and sound.
    And I’m very glad Ethan was found and saved too.
    I’m wiping away tears because dammit, it’s every parent’s worst nightmare and when someone goes through something like this, we all feel for them and get scared too. 🙁

  13. Jess in MI

    OK first I am soooo glad Gabbi was ok!!!
    When I was younger, like 13-14ish I ALWAYS had to take my little brothers everywhere I went, EVERYWHERE. Anyway one day I wanted to go to the beach, about 4 blocks from my house, across a busy intersection, down TONS of stairs and then across the beach to the water. My little brother, Jake (he was about 5ish at the time) had to come with me. Well we went to the beach and of course I started talking to some boys and lost track of time, and OMG where is Jake? He was missing! I freaked out. I looked all over the beach, he was no where to be found, I walked out on the pier to check, nothing. Finally I had looked everywhere and was bawling but had to go home and tell my mom that my brother was gone and I was ready to deal with whatever I had coming to me. When I walked in the door, there sits Jake, eating a popcicle watching cartoons. OMG he was alive. I was so relieved but then freaking out because OMG, my mom is going to kill me. This little 5 year old walked home all alone!! Across the beach up the stairs across the BUSY INTERSECTION and 4 blocks to our house!
    So I totally know how you feel!!
    I can say now, I am 28 years old and have my own little 5 year old son, Nathan and I dont let him out of my sight for a moment!!!!

  14. Jess in MI

    ok, sorry about the above post, I had a little freak out session in my head. Again I am so happy Gabbi was fine and Ethan too! (I had to go read that entry)

  15. Danielle

    I have been spared that kind of agony so far with my rats (three young boys). I am so glad that she was found safe and sound. I am sure from now on she will have her brother’s eyes on her.
    Be well and enjoy the day

  16. kirsten

    ok, double terror because i had to go read about the time ethan almost drowned, too.
    sometimes i think god does that for us, exactly for the reasons you suggest, y. to keep us on our toes, to not allow us to get too complacent. not that you, or any of us really are, but it is sometimes too easy to focus on the minutiae instead of the big, wonderful picture of the OOGY LOVE SANDWICH that is family.
    which may, or may not, be made out of questionable meat. (answer: it. is. always. bad.)

  17. Valette

    When I was 3 (fifth child, first girl, in a lineup of seven) I wandered off from the house to “go pet the horses”. My parents, grandparents, and uncles all had land next to each other totally 20 acres, and my uncle kept horses in the field behind our house. I had been out there before with my dad and brothers, and I loved the horses. I don’t know how long my family was looking for me, but to hear them tell it (which they still are telling it 23 years later), they looked for an hour. One of my older brothers finally found me standing in the middle of three very large horses that would snap a child in two, petting one’s leg. All I remember from the event was the very large spanking I got once I got home and after the hugs and kisses.

  18. Kyla

    OMfreakingG, Y. I was scared to death for you. Wow.
    And the post about Ethan? Good Lord. This post was a two for one heart attack special.
    So, so glad everyone is okay.

  19. Julie

    I am crying and shaking at work. Good thing it is quiet here today. I am so glad everything is ok.

  20. Lisa

    This scared me because I have heard of kids climbing in cars to play and then can’t get out and they suffocate in the heat. Things can go so bad so incredibly fast. Glad this turned out okay. whew.

  21. melly

    She just wanted a ride to aunt melly’s place.
    I so would have been running down the street screaming FIIIIIIIIIIRE to get everyone’s attention.

  22. ambrosia

    Geez, I can’t even imagine. I got a little sick just reading this.
    At least it kinda puts ‘losing the house’ a little bit into perspective, huh?

  23. danelle

    My son (now 19) was missing for about 3 hours once when he was 5. I was riding around the neighborhood with detectives with curly wires in their ears and a neighborhood search party was forming when we found him. To this day, 14 years later I have tears rolling down my cheeks just remembering how that felt.
    I can totally identify with the “drop to your knees” feeling cause that’s *exactly* what I did when the school called to tell me he was absent when I knew damn well I had put him on the bus. Ugh…
    I’m so glad G is ok!

  24. yinyang

    We thought we lost my sister one on Halloween. We enlisted everyone in the neighborhood and spent half-an-hour looking for her. Turns out she was in our cereal cabinet, and that she’d heard us yell for her but decided it wasn’t important or something. I don’t even think she was three yet. That was not a good night.

    Oh, and my parents put my brother on the wrong bus for the first day of kindergarten. That’s a fun story, too, but the details are fuzzy.

  25. Ninotchka

    Oh shit, Y. Just today, Elle (our 4 year old) brought up how we “lost” Anna Sofia (our now 19-month old) on vacation in Florida back in January. I was like “gee, thanks for reopening that wound, kid!” It was the scariest thing in my life. And it lasted only like 2 minutes tops but OH MY FUCKING GOD. All I could see was ocean and pool and NOT MY BABY, WHERE IS MY BABY!??? I was hysterical. My heart is pounding in my chest just thinking about you went through on Sunday because I’ve been there. JESUS. Thank God, Gabby was fine. Anna Sofia was too but I freaked out good. I can send you the link to the (hilarious in retrospect) entry, if you’re interested. Really the highlight of the whole thing was me holding my baby in my arms as my husband looked at me as though I was possessed and saying to him: YOU BETTER LET ME FREAK THE FUCK OUT. And him saying “Go ahead.” HA HA HA Like I said, funny in retrospect. At the time it was absolutely horrifying.
    Sorry you had to go through that.

  26. sarcastic journalist

    SAME THING happened a week or two ago here. We had one of those ‘where’s Ellie” moments where everyone thought someone else was watching her (family was in town). I think someone left the garage door open and she’s more than capable of going in there. We live VERY NEAR a busy street and that’s ALL I could think about.
    We did the frantic “Ellie! Ellie!” cries, checked everywhere and, luckily, finally found her sitting at the bottom of our pantry, with the door shut.

  27. Mrs Butter B

    “Legs”, my younger daughter, disappeared several years ago in Walmart at Halloween time. We paged her and paged her, and I was running all over the store shreiking her name, and could not find her. She was almost 9, and all I could think was that some wacko satanic sacrificer had abducted her.
    It took 45 minutes, with the Code Adam being announced over the loudspeaker and me sobbing up front when some lady said that she had seen a kid playing in the racks of women’s clothes. It was Legs, hiding in there and scared to come out.
    Turns out she saw someone wearing the Scream mask (remember when they were popular) and it freaked her out. She had seen the movie (without my knowledge) at a friend’s house when the friend’s older sister was watching it, and it scared the joojoos out of her.
    For like 6 months, I made her either ride in the cart or walk holding on to the cart the ENTIRE time we were in walmart.
    The feeling that your child is gone is the absolutely worst feeling I know of. All the Law & Order/CSI/COPS episodes rush through your mind and all you can picture is your child gone forever.
    I’m so glad Gabby is fine and kudos to you for excellent parenting skills during the whole fiasco!

  28. Susan

    I cried while reading this. I could totally imagine your terror. OMG.
    Just as an aside, you might want to lock your car doors so she can’t get in and play. I would never have thought of this, but a few years ago, my friend’s 3yo niece got into her grandparents’ car in the backseat while it was parked in the driveway. In the middle of summer. The childproof locks were on, so she couldn’t get back out. While the family searched up and down the street looking for her, she was collapsed and in a coma in the backseat of their car – only after scratching up the seats with her little bitty fingernails while panicking, and vomiting everywhere. She died 3 days later.
    Thought I’d post this horrible story for others to read, too. As I said – I never would’ve thought a car could be especially dangerous, but you can just never be too careful.
    Not judging, Y – not at all. You’re an awesome, involved, attentive mom. That’s more than obvious.
    I am so glad your precious baby was okay.

  29. Sarah

    I’m so happy she’s okay! My little sister used to run off all the time. The worst was when she climbed out of her bedroom window onto the roof of the sunroom and i hd to go out there and get her.
    That said, here comes dirty ol’ me concentrating on the wrong part of the story. Anybody else see something phallic in that lipstick?

  30. becky

    so glad she was okay. yeah, that’s scary for any parent.
    i remember one day when the munchkin didn’t come home from school and didn’t call. i finally found her with her friends and i reamed them ALL for making us worry. (she was a pre-teen then.) i’m sure my mom has stories like that about me, too.
    again, glad she’s okay.

  31. Denise

    Oh my gosh Y, this made me cry. Just because I know EXACTLY what you were feeling…we had an incident at soccer, where we were leaving after the game and we couldn’t find my youngest…and the field was emptying and people were searching….I can’t even write about it because I feel sick and shaky all over again. But by the grace of God she was safe, and thank God Gabby was safe…
    And thank you for the reminder to not get mad over stupid stuff…I needed that today.

  32. Kristie

    It’s the most terrifying feeling in the world, isn’t it? I lost my oldest daughter once, when she was 18 month old. We were at church, and I thought my sister had her, and she thought I had her, and the little shit got on an elevator (we were at a really huge church) and went up to the 3rd floor administrative offices. She was wandering around, happy as a clam, while I had a freaking nervous breakdown thinking somebody had walked off with her, or that she had wandered outside and would be hit by a car. Terrifying. It’s the worst feeling in the world for a parent.
    Like someone else commented, makes you realize that losing the house, while annoying, is nothing more. You can always find someplace to live … even if it’s a cardboard box. The important thing is having those wonderful (even when they scare you half to death!) family members there with you.

  33. Brandi

    My heart was in my throat the whole time I was reading this. I was praying silently “please God, tell me they found her”. You have such a special family. You all know just how much you mean to one another.

  34. Beth

    I’m so glad you found your daughter! One time my son and I were on a playdate at a park, and he and my friend’s daughter (they were about three at the time) decided to take off running down a path toward the street. I saw the whole thing in slow motion and realized I wouldn’t be able to reach the kids in time because they’d gotten too far. I yelled at them, and at a bunch of guys playing soccer nearby to stop the kids, but the guys just stared at me. My friend was a faster sprinter than I was, and between the yelling and running, we got them back. It made me really understand how things get out of control in a few seconds, though. Give your daughter about fifty million extra squeezes from us. 🙂

  35. Angela

    Glad she is fine. I once lost sight of one of my boys while we were leaving Mass, and he was GONE in the herding mass of humanity. It took us a few very panicked minutes to find him again. It’s just surreal, that feeling.

  36. TM

    OMG. I can lurk no longer.
    I am so glad your daughter was near by and unharmed.
    My heart hurts for you and your family. What an awful experience!

  37. Zena

    Glad your daughter was safe, but why were you watching TV, whilst she was outside with no adult supervision?

  38. Kari

    I thought for sure you were going to say something like she was in a neighbours pool and looking blue. Thank God she is ok.
    My daughter was 4 when I had my first scare. She was sitting on the front step eating a popsicle. I ran in the house to answer the phone. I came back out in about 30 seconds to find her missing. I called and called for her. After about 5 minutes of going door to door (we lived in a row house) I called 911. The operator, if you can believe this, said give it 10 more minutes I’m sure she will show up. I was going out of my mind. I went back outside and started calling again. She walked out of the back yard next door. Her friend had called her over without her mother knowing. That was the longest 7 minutes of my life ever!

  39. Y

    Quit being an asshole.
    Read the story again. I wasn’t inside watching TV whilemy daughter was outside unsupervised.
    I was inside discussing dinner with my husband while her brothers watched her for a few minutes. (Her oldest is 14, he’s fully capable of watching her for a few minutes at a time.)
    Also, I said I turned the tv on, not “sat down to watch it.”
    I don’t know why, but I always imagine people like Zena high five’ing themselves or popping a boner after leaving a comment like that.
    But hey, if that brings joy to someone, then it makes me happy.

  40. Sarah's Dandelions

    I know the feeling of not knowing where one of your children is… scary!!
    but guess what…. bad meat will STINK if you cook it. So… if you cook it, and it smells fine… it’s all good. seriously!!

  41. Y

    Yeah, or in my case 3.
    You know, I don’t mind critical comments if they’re sincere in the sense that the person leaves a real email address and actually has a point.
    But, every time someone like ZENA comments, they don’t have a point, except to twist my words and be an asshole and they NEVER leave a real email address and theyALWAYS stay on my site clicking refresh to see if I read their comment because it just makes their day to think that they hurt my delicate wittle feelings.
    I like to think that people with an honest disagreement/debate let their feelings be known, click off of my site and go on with their lives and not sit there obsessively clicking REFRESH!!!!!! to make sure I saw their precious little comment.

  42. Susan

    She’s obviously got no life.
    I have been hitting refresh too (so maybe I have no life either?!) but only to see if anyone has offered to kick her ass for you. 😉
    I hope you didn’t take my comments wrong, Y. As I said, it’s more than obvious you’re an awesome mom, and an incredible person all the way around. That’s why you have such a huge following here!
    It’s just one of those things that I never thought about until something tragic happened to the loved one of a close friend — you know? (I left my car unlocked until then, too.) And I was thinking maybe if it made someone else here pause and think about leaving their cars unlocked (even in the garage), it might be worth taking the time to post.
    KWIM? I hope??!?! 🙂
    Blowing kisses… and desperately hoping I’m not one of the 3 you’re referring to…

  43. ambrosia

    You didn’t take offense to my comment about this putting the ‘losing the house’ thing into perspective, did you? ‘Cause losing the house definitely sucks – but, you know, not as bad.

  44. Stacie

    Guess “Zena” isn’t a mom. A mom would understand that we have ALL been there at least once. You look away for a few moments and those darned kids are just…gone! Thankfully, your situation turned out ok. Again, I think that we’ve all had our close calls. They are scary as hell but they DO put things in perspective don’t they?
    Hugs Y!

  45. Kris

    Oh, Y, this made me cry. I’m so glad she’s ok.
    last week my boys left the side door open, and within seconds my 1 1/2 year old daughter seized the opportunity. When I found her she was running across the backyard. but she could just as easily have gone the other way to the street, which is about a car’s length from my side door. I still cringe when I think of that.
    smooches to Gabby

  46. the mighty jimbo

    i think maybe hispanic families are different than italian families, cause that same scenario played out at least once in my young life, and the result wasn’t a calm family talk about responsibility and hugging but rather a lot of screaming followed by a good beating.
    not politically correct, but in the 1970s NY, very effective.
    now you will excuse me while i go torture the cat.

  47. Moiaussi

    You articulated the situation extremely well. Which is probably your problem. You are able to use your language both internal and externally to conjur up the best and worst. As you describe it “less than 10 minutes had passed” yet you were running around hysterically as though hours had gone by. What message are you sending your kids? Hysterical reactions to everyday situations is okay? The longer you react to this the less likely the kids are to take your behaviours as out of the ordinary. Perhaps the kids don’t listen to you when you ask them to mind the little one because they are learning to tune you out

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