The day I nearly lost him, he was such a little man. Rolling his miniature suitcase down the concourse with his boarding pass, threading his way through the taller adults, he looked back just once like a confident boy friend, roguish that he was in the lead, then disappeared from the face of the earth, a suddenly vulnerable child without his mother. He likes to hide, I told myself from B4 to B9; I told myself, please god, he likes to hide. I didn’t find him before I cried. I snagged him by the collar as he was running for the skyway toward flight 203, and I hurt him a little, I’m afraid; I frightened him. I needed to make him fearful of something, but I wasn’t sure quite what. He needed to know that his mother was fearful, but not exactly why. His father caught up with us and appraised the scene: the tears, our tears, his frightened boy, and I saw in his eyes he thought less of me, as a parent. I hadn’t thought that possible. My mother-in-law was with us again, and her I couldn’t look at, at all. I took a breath. I straightened my baby’s collar. “I ran ahead,” he explained to his daddy and grandma, “I got lost. Mom found me.” There was nowhere at all for me to look. We split up again for the shuttle train ride to our departure gate, daddy and grandma in the forward car, me and my hero in the last. He climbed on board and offered me his hand. I put one foot up, heard an announcement that made me doubt, and stepped back in a panic of confusion. And watched the doors close. And watched the doors separate me again from my little man.

Copyright © August 22, 2007 David Hodges