May 21. 2013
It was warm Thursday evening and the May long weekend was ahead of us. My friend Lisa and I were enjoying a glass of wine while sitting on the deck looking out at Maple Bay and watching our girls playing together in the yard down below. That serenity changed the instant I noticed my four-year-old middle child, Clodagh, was missing.
I’d last seen Clodagh stomping up the grass towards the house, arms crossed over her chest with fury all over her face. Her older sister and Lisa’s daughter had committed some unforgivable transgression and Clodagh was not happy about it.
Some time later I was startled out of the bliss when I realized I hadn’t heard Clodagh’s sounds inside the house since the altercation on the grass. “Where’s Clodagh?” I said as I jumped from my deck chair and headed inside to find her. “Clodagh!” I yelled, but no answer returned. “Clodagh, answer mummy!” No answer. “Clodagh, mummy isn’t happy now. Tell me where you are please.” Nothing.
Oh man, I thought, this kid is choked. She loves to hide but she usually answers when called—especially when I’m using my angry voice, as I was by the third shout. I went outside and started calling. No answer. I asked the older girls, who hadn’t seen her either, and started to worry so joined the search. Lisa said, “I think I’ll help you find Clodagh because your voice is getting a little panicky.” Sure was.
There were four possible places Clodagh could be: hiding in the house or yard, on a walk in the woods or elsewhere in Maple Bay, injured somewhere, or taken by a cougar into the woods for his dinner. I kept pushing the latter out of my head as I searched every inch of the house: in the closets, bathroom, upstairs, downstairs, under covers and pillows. Lisa did the same. No Clodagh.
Outside we searched the sheds, the woods, inside the van, the Airstream, the neighbours’ yards, calling Clodagh’s name the whole time. No Clodagh. We searched all those places again. Same result.
About 30 minutes had passed when we noticed a white truck slow down on the road. The road was the least likely place Clodagh would be because we would have seen her walk down the yard. But then, we were chatting and maybe, somehow, we missed her. When the truck slowed we walked down to see if it was slowing for Clodagh. It wasn’t, but its occupants, Bruce and Anne Muir, stepped out and asked what was up. When we told them Miss Clodagh had gone AWOL, they looked worried. I told them we would be fine and to go enjoy their evening at the pub.
A few minutes later, just as Lisa and I were looking inside the van for the third time, and just as I grabbed Lisa’s shoulders and said, “This is messed up!”, the Muirs and the people they were meeting the pub walked up the driveway and said, “You’ve got more people to look.” Cal and Jane Kaiser, Kevin Fraser, a few men I didn’t recognized joined Lisa and I, and my neighbour Jon Rutledge whom I’d summoned, in the search for Clodagh. I was overwhelmed with gratitude but their arrival made it more real than I was prepared for.
Jane ran up and down the beach. Kevin, Bruce, and some others checked the neighbours’ yards and Arbutus Avenue, Anne checked around the house. As Cal headed into the woods, I passed him Clodagh’s favourite stuffed animal, Mr. Pig, “Take this Cal. She won’t trust you otherwise.” I’d conceded it was now likely Clodagh was injured or eaten in the woods.
I nearly cried then, but I knew it would help no one, especially the four kids who were freaking out inside the house: the two older girls and Lisa’s 3-year-old and my 2-year-old. “She’s died,” said the 3-year-old. “I don’t want Clodagh to be taken by the goblins, mummy!” said my eldest. “It’s feeling really spooky in here,” said Lisa’s eldest. No kidding.
My youngest kept looking to me for clues as to what was going down. Her face was broken but not yet crying so I looked at her and said, “It’s fine. We’ll find Clodagh. She’s just hiding really well!” in my super-cheery voice that held as much integrity as vapour, which fooled no one but the two-year-old. Ish.
I was about to knock on the neighbour’s door when Lisa screamed from the basement, “Maeve! I found her!” I ran into the house to find Lisa crying next to Clodagh, who was asleep on the sofa. Clodagh had hidden herself under pillows and had fallen asleep. She was sleeping—not mutinous, not injured, not eaten. We had checked that sofa, probably twice, but she had made herself so small we hadn’t thought to lift that one pillow—until Lisa did, God bless her.
With an equal measure of relief and shame, I walked outside to share the news with our heroic neighbours who had sacrificed their social evening to search for our sleeping baby girl. “Thank you Maple Bay!” I said as they walked away looking for no recognition. What a community.
Where was the mister in all this? He was out in the middle of Maple Bay coaching rowing, so was oblivious. Lisa had gone down to the rowing club twice: first to see if Clodagh was there and second to see if she could contact the mister, which she couldn’t. By the time he returned home, we were back on the deck, sipping wine, chatting resumed. Before I told him what happened, I asked, “If you couldn’t find Clodagh, where would you look?” He named her location on his third guess.