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Dispatches From Down East: Losing My Children

Recently, while manning a table at a yard sale, I lost a child. I arrived home after the yard sale only to find out that she was neither with me nor traveling with her father, and the 15 minutes it took to locate her at a friend's house up the road were the scariest 15 minutes of my life to date.
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A half year ago, we bought tickets to attend the Prince County Exhibition in western Prince Edward Island. As part of the tour of the grounds, our family went inside the small animals barn. We all looked into each pen, yelling with shrieks of delight over each new exhibit. The kids called out excited exclamations to each other when a new animal was located and then proceeded to "oooh" and "aaahh" over the tiny babies found crowded around their mama.

What caught my attention was the sow. She lay sprawled on her side, her eyes closed with a dream-like expression on her face. Meanwhile, about ten or so little piglets vied for a spot on her placid body from which to get nourishment. They grunted and squealed, fought and tugged, pushed and pulled. But Mama never cracked an eyelid.

In fact, I think she was purposefully ignoring them. It was as if she had transported herself to another dimension where life was nothing but flowers and clover stretching out for miles in an endless field of dreams. She was tuned out to the little ones around her worn-out body and nothing was going to make her move unless she decided it was of the utmost importance to her.

I often think of that sow. She is somewhat of an inspiration to me. Because when all is said and done, she seemed to have it all together. Happy piglets content to independently look after themselves and a happy mama intent on getting the R&R she so desperately needed.

One thing that sow and I do not share in common, amongst other important features, is that I am pretty sure she has never suffered from a panic attack from losing a child. I am pretty sure she doesn't even notice when one little one goes wandering off outside the pen. She is too busy dreaming about slops and half-eaten corn cobs. Flowers and clover.

Recently, while manning a table at a yard sale, I lost a child. This is pretty much the first time this has ever happened, but I must say the panic that washed over me was parallel to none. I arrived home after the yard sale only to find out that she was neither with me nor traveling with her father, and the 15 minutes it took to locate her at a friend's house up the road was the scariest 15 minutes of my life to date. I actually had to see her up close and personal to believe she was truly there, as I had already planned out the next line of action which involved immediately calling the R.C.M.P. and involving as many other emergency personnel as was humanly possible.

To say I was relieved is an understatement. Relief trumps a scolding at times like this.

After I got my emotions under control, and had a brief nap to calm the nerves, I decided against my better judgement to take the four kids on a short road trip. Another way I am not like that sow is that I am pretty sure she also has never had to buckle up those cloven-hoofed youngsters and cart them off to the store. Because I am absolutely sure that one trip to the mall would wipe that dream-like expression off her face forever.

We are driving towards town, and all is currently under control. Fortunately, the trip there is usually somewhat of a breeze as the novelty of leaving the house has not yet worn off. I only have to run interference a couple of times, and stern warnings are enough, so it seems. There is the promise of a bike, for one, and that seems to hold things at bay. There is peace in the Middle Seat. (Shuffle those letters around, and you will see how seriously clever one can be going on five hours of nightly sleep...)

We arrive at the restaurant of choice, and again, I am somewhat in shock at how easily this is going. A slight squirmish over who gets what to drink, but again...the bike. It is working like a charm.

We eat, and then set off on our adventure. Four kids, a pocketful of yard sale money and the Mama Sow generously following the troop around the store, keeping a steady even calm flowing from her aching body. Placid smiles flashing everywhere.

We try out a few bikes, but they are not quite right. So, I load the little piglets into the van, and we drive across the road to Store number two. Upon arriving in the bike section, the child with the money realizes how truly expensive a bike really is, and deals begin to be cut. While we are still working out the details, the youngest tells me that she needs to pee, and that she has "half" peed already in her pants.

I start to panic as we are clearly a mile or so from the washroom, or so it seems from the back corner where we now stand. As I have already issued the help of a store clerk, and she is on her way to retrieve tools by which she will adjust a bike seat for the buyer, I again plead with the oldest to stay and "man the site" while I take the younger two to the washroom.

I help the youngest, then I tell her that mama has to use the washroom too. I close the door, and stand hovering over the seat so as to keep an eye on her through a crack in between the door and the wall of the stall. In the minute it takes for me to get the job accomplished, I hear the youngest say to her sister, "I am just going to go outside the washroom. You wait here."

I can see her open the door and vanish out through the slip of space allowed for her by means of her tiny strength. I holler, "Don't you leave the bathroom. I'm almost done!" but to no avail. She is gone like a flash in the night sky, a streak of grease lightening. And she has given me no indication that she has even heard me speak a word.

I am caught, suspended over the toilet. Caught between two worlds. Forced to choose between a job well done or a quick swipe and then out the door. Visions of Mama Sow whirl through my head. I have already lost a child once today, I don't need to relive this nightmare for a second time. Without a second's hesitation, I choose the latter. I bolt out the washroom door, crazed expression on my face, only to find the little escapee standing along the wall smiling. I am ready to knock some heads together.

I truly understand that some animals have no other recourse but to eat their young. But as that is not an appropriate option for me at this time, I think of Mama Pig. I realize that like her, you never sweat the small stuff, and that at the end of the day, you just "gotta" be glad that what seemed like big stuff turned out to be pretty little.

As a necessary measure, one must also count blessings...starting with the four lying asleep in their beds even as the words are now being penned. For at the end of the day, my dear ones sweet dreams of faraway places is the greatest blessing of them all.