In the throes of childhood, both of my kids managed to get themselves lost—scare your mother half to death lost. Separate events that I’m certain were the cause of my first gray hairs. (Fortunately those hairs have since miraculously turned a lovely shade my hairdresser calls Copper Mahogany). My daughter was a toddler when she disappeared at our community park’s performance of the Pickle Family Circus.
She was wearing pink-check gingham, Salt Water sandals, and a stubborn “Me do it” look on her face. An hour past her nap, she’d threatened to pitch a three-ring fit unless I allowed her walk under the occupied bleachers from one end to the other, the way her older brother had. It was a very short distance. I stood at the end of the bleachers and watched, waited. Then waited, strained to see-- my heart climbing to my throat. It wasn’t impossible, but somehow in broad daylight, right under my nose—and a short set of wooden bleachers—my baby girl simply disappeared.
I went nuts. Ran underneath the bleachers, calling her name. It was a small crowd, young parents, grandparents, and teachers. A gentle scenario to get lost in. Then suddenly someone uttered, “Dressed in pink? I’m not sure, but I think maybe I saw her. A man was carrying a little girl toward the parking lot just now.” I think I stopped breathing.
The ringmaster announced my daughter’s name and description as I raced toward the parking lot, praying, berating myself for being the world’s worst mother, and then praying some more. I was too terrified to cry.
And then—out of nowhere, as fast as she disappeared—my daughter was toddling toward me. Pink gingham, chubby cheeks, and snow cone sticky. With a very proud, “Me did it” smile on her face. Unharmed, happy, clueless. Just out for a walk. What’s the big deal, Mom?
My little girl slept great that night. I didn’t. The what-if’s kept spinning in my brain. I needed to sit beside her crib and whisper thankful prayers that she was found . . . not lost.
In my newest novel medical drama, Rescue Team, I explore the concept of “lost” on several levels: physically lost, suffering a tragic loss, losing a relationship, and losing faith in God. I invite readers to see something I’ve learned in my own life: sometimes it’s by losing something that we find what’s been missing all along.
The hero, Wes Tanner, is a search and rescue volunteer. It’s a soul-deep passion for very personal reasons. As shown here in the opening chapter:
Wes headed down the road to his horse trailer as morning lit the hill country cedar and prickly pear cactus—golden as the yolks in Gabe’s favorite breakfast. He glanced back at the gully, remembering the moment he’d found Amelia Braxton. “It’s okay. You’re not lost anymore.” His favorite words in the world. Being able to say them and offer that lifeline of hope to another human being had become as important to him as breathing. It was the reason he’d answer any callout—anytime, anywhere. Even if he had to do it alone. And sometimes he did that . . . hours, weeks, even months after other searchers called it quits.
Because he understood how it felt to be lost, cold, terrified, and desperate for help. Despite a lifetime spent trying to forget, he still remembered it as if it were yesterday: the January night that Lee Ann Tanner left her seven-year-old son in the woods. Then drove her car into the river.
***Today my little girl in pink is 34 years old and remains an adventurer. Last summer she hiked a 200 mile stretch of the rugged Pacific Crest Trail—solo. She’s doing the John Muir trail this summer. The fact that she carries a GPS unit which sends daily “I’m okay” signals keeps me from going grayer than my hairdresser can handle. That cool mechanical gizmo . . . and the deep faith we both share.
GIVEAWAY: Candace Calvert has graciously provided the opportunity for one of Chat With Vera's readers to win a their very own copy of Rescue Team. Use the Rafflecopter entry form below. Begins May 1 and ENDS May 30 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT. Open to USA continental residents only.
a Rafflecopter giveaway