Remember when I wrote about Sliding Doors?
Let me tell you about another set of sliding doors. The ones at the downtown library. The ones I watched close behind Mary Bullock, alone in the elevator.
Yesterday MB had an afternoon play date. We could have stayed at home and played. That probably would have been easier. But I knew my girl was mildly cranky from not napping. And I knew that I was mildly cranky from her not napping. And I knew that the two of us mildly cranky girls staying in the house all afternoon, play date or no, was not going to end well.
So we needed to go somewhere, but in Jacksonville in the summer, especially when you’ve already showered for the day, options are slim. And since we haven’t been to the library all summer, I thought that would be a fun and easy outing.
I’ll skip the part where our sweet, tiny, local branch was closed and go right ahead to the part where we arrive at the Main Library downtown at 4:45pm.
Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever been to the Main Library at 4:45pm on a summer afternoon, but allow me to summarize for you: there aren’t a lot of studiers there. Our beautiful newish public library is situated directly across from a plaza utilized more often than not as a landing spot for Jacksonville’s homeless.
Unlike many in our fair city, this doesn’t bother me so much. If I were homeless, I’d want to be there, too. There’s a beautiful fountain perfect for contemplation. It’s right by a major downtown mode of transportation (the Skyway), and it’s in walking distance to downtown homeless shelters. And the library- well, it’s air conditioned and full of books and comfortable chairs.
So, now that I’ve set the scene for you, imagine me, with two four year olds, a two year old, and a 10 month old in the stroller with my sixty pound diaper bag strapped to the back. See us get on the elevator and go up a floor to the main desk. Can I check out books even though I have a fine on my account? Yes? Now see our tiny traveling circus turn around and head back to the elevators. See Mary Bullock skip ahead and jump into the empty waiting elevator.
See the doors close behind her.
WAIT! I didn’t yell. It was more like a squeak. I was raised not to yell in libraries.
I pressed the elevator button again. And again and again and again, in case the first 14 times were a fluke.
Only the doors did not open. Instead, as I heard Mary Bullock’s cries rise upward to–what floor? I don’t know— two more elevators in the bank of four elevators opened around me.
Do I get on a different elevator? What if she comes back down and I’m not here?
Someone on an elevator was holding the door for us, so I herded everyone on and pressed 2 for the children’s library. The doors opened. No Mary Bullock. By now I was nearly hyperventilating, and people around me were noticing.
By the time we got the crew back down to the first floor (and again no Mary Bullock), I was attracting attention. Only, every where I looked, I saw faces I wasn’t sure I could trust. I looked around, whining/panting, starting to speak but not knowing with whom I’d like to share the information that my four year old daughter was by herself somewhere in the library. A summer’s worth of horrible newspaper headlines were flashing through my brain. I think Jacksonville has been ground zero for monstrosities against children in the last few months.
I sprinted across the main lobby, calling to the security guard as I went.
FOUR YEAR OLD!
His blank facial expression confused me. What, did he expect complete sentences?
Just then another security officer walked by.
She’s on 4, is all he said.
So I turned the posse around and herded us all into an already crowded elevator. By the time the doors opened on the fourth floor, I was sweating, crying, and praying out loud while people around us pressed themselves further up against the elevator walls, like hot mess might be a communicable disease.
As my elevator mates squeezed to let our clown car pass through the open elevator doors, I realized I didn’t know where on the fourth floor she was.
Right or left?
RIGHT OR LEFT?
I went left, turned another corner, and finally saw her rainbow ruffled skirt walking toward me with the security guard from downstairs.
I know way worse things happen to people. So I guess I’m blessed to say– that was the scariest five minutes of my entire life.
I sank down to the floor to hug her, only I had Bo in my arms and ended up falling on my bottom. So I watched from the floor as Bo put his arms around her and said, I wuv you, Mawy Buwwock! Dat ‘cawy. (That was scary).
On the way home, I asked Mary Bullock to tell the story of what happened. She said when the elevator doors closed, she didn’t press any buttons. The elevator went to the fourth floor, and when the doors opened she was crying. Someone was standing there who said Are you lost? and she nodded. Then they walked to the desk.
I don’t know who that person was.
Last night before bed we said special prayers:
For everyone who is lost.
For everyone who is found.
And for everyone who helps the lost get found.