|Visions of face painting danced in their heads. But it was not to be.|
Within moments of meeting, however, KT and I realized we should've just gone to the W for drinks, instead of wandering into this Copley Square clusterfuck with five young kids.
It was madness. It appeared that all of New England had converged on Boylston Street to take advantage of the balmy weather. It was nearly impossible to keep the kids herded into our own personal space. Worse, my kiddos aren't city savvy yet. Without hypervigilance, they would wander into intersections, or stop short on a crowded street, sending disgruntled revelers veering into filthy snowbanks to avoid tripping over them. This year, the sidewalks were narrowed further, partially roped off with yellow "caution" tape because of the ever-present threat of getting impaled by one of the death icicles dangling perilously from the buildings' underhangs. Every now and then, one would smash to the ground and it was like a window had fallen out of the John Hancock tower. Mad crowds, hypervigilance, death icicles. Happy New Year! What the hell were we thinking?
|I think Paulie knows the day is going to suck.|
What the hell were we thinking, part 2: We purchased vuvuzelas for the kids.
The First Night vendors are the creepiest lot, likely part of some prison work release program. And probably pedophiles. Another charming thought: Pedophiles selling light-up butterfly wands and disco ball scepters to legions of young children in crowded, chaotic places.
First Night was not a great place for young kids, and certainly not for my generalized anxiety disorder.
We walked up to the Hynes Convention Center in search of face painting. Instead, we were accosted by a salesman who asked us if our basements were waterproofed. We then learned that the line for face painting snaked around the entire convention hall. We decided to get the hell out of there. "Hey guys! Wanna go see if the ice sculptures melted?"
It was a 30 minute, two-block pilgrimage back to Copley Square. It was a challenge not to lose the kids in the throngs. The whole way, we were barking at them for their lack of spatial awareness. "Use the buddy system!" "Don’t space out on the escalators!" "Look out for that mailbox!" "Watch the light pole!" "Don’t blow the vuvuzelas in Starbucks!" I was starting to believe that people who leash their kids aren’t insane. Finally, I just held onto their hoods.
|Hold on to your hoods! Let's get some street meat!|
And we thought the afternoon was bad so far? It hadn't even begun to suck!
Everyone was starving, so we got some fried dough and street meat and gawked at the sweating ice sculptures for a bit. A couple of police officers asked if the kids wanted to sit on their motorcycles. Paulie stood beside me eating a basket of chicken fingers, while the girls climbed into the seats.
|This was the final photo of the day for reasons that will become clear.|
I snapped a photo of the girls, then went to grab Paulie’s hood and he was gone. GONE! I looked left, looked right, I spun around. He was nowhere to be found. We all started spreading out, calling his name. I told Caroline to stay with KT, and I ran up and down the sidewalk with my hair on fire, peeking in between the throngs of people. All I could think was: This is how it happens. In a split second. Someone took him. He couldn’t have gotten out of sight in two seconds by himself in this huge crowd. With every frantic second that passed, it became more real. I was shaking and running amok, screaming his name in a voice I’ve never heard before. He was not anywhere in the immediate area. I started running back to the police officers but was mobbed by Samaritans wanting to help: What does your son look like? What was he wearing? How old is he? By now, I was hyperventilating, trying to get the words out: Patriots sweatshirt. Brown hair. He’s 6.
Thankfully 10 –year-old DT (smart ) said “He was eating chicken nuggets!”
One of the Samaritans yelled out: “I just saw a little boy in a Patriots sweatshirt with chicken nuggets. I think he was up by the bus stop, just past Clarendon Street!” This was a block and a half away. We all took off – KT, the kids, the Samaritans. I was still convinced somebody had him. I was in a full-on panic – an epic fail in the cool head department.
Then beautiful words from DT : “I see him! I see him!” Then we all saw him at once. He was standing with a man, a woman and their two young sons, still holding his basket of chicken fingers. I screamed his name and he spotted me and ran to me crying. The Samaritans and the young family that was watching him all broke into cheers. I broke into convulsing sobs and just hugged Paulie for about five minutes. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.
I’ve always told the kids if they get separated from us to find a policeman or a woman with children. But this woman found him first. She spotted him walking down Boylston Street, looking scared and totally lost. She had the presence of mind to just stand with him there and not move, "We are going to stay with you right here until your mom finds you. She is definitely looking for you." She also shared a simple but brilliant tip. She writes her cellphone number on her kids’ arms so they can have someone call if they get lost. Paulie knows my cell phone but couldn’t recall it in the panic.
How it happened: Apparently, he spaced out and started following a woman who had a similar coat to mine. I just can’t believe how far away he got in so little time. This whole ordeal went down in about 7 minutes, but took about 7 years off my life.
The single worst moment I’ve ever experienced. I don't even know what we would've done if KT and the sunshine band weren't with us. Thank you, my friends.
Caroline, who was also shaken, piped up: “Quick! Let’s get out of here before someone else gets lost.” Best idea we'd heard all day.
When we got home, James tried to talk me down, saying it probably happened to about 100 people that day. And that at least it happened in 2010. True. Best NYE ever: At home, everyone safe, watching Taio Cruz sing “Dynamite” in Times Square with Caroline and Paul in a bear hug on my lap. And a gigantic goblet of red wine on the coffee table.