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    Monday, December 29, 2008


    Yesterday I swallowed my heart. Literally. For fifteen minutes, my imagination carried me away to a land of pedophiles and creepy men who hurt 11 year old girls. I was sure I would never see my daughter again.

    The Smith clan had decided that we were up for an adventure of seashell hunting on the Pass-a-Gril beach. It was pleasantly breezy, not the usual sun burning rays. I quickly established myself on a chair and was ready to read, Mountain Dew in hand. Delaney worked with the sand a few feet away and the boys were busy at the shore. Caelin was with Allison, trolling the water for pretty shells to add to her collection. She is not one that I pay close attention to or worry about because she generally is my most responsible little girl. So, with Delaney visible out of the corner of my eye, I began my afternoon of reading and chatting. We were surrounded by family, some awake and conversing, some dozing on the blankets behind us.

    Allison came up and asked if she and Noelle could go down to the water. Caelin walked up and asked for a bucket. I acknowledged both in my quiet brain, but not aloud, and talked on, easily chatting in and out of a conversation. Then I looked up. I could Allison and Noelle, playing the sand by the water. Delaney was at my feet, and t he boys were to my left, playing bocce ball with their uncle and father. An alarm went off in my head.
    "Has anyone seen Caelin?", I asked. I scanned the beach to the left and to the right and out into the water. Nothing. No sight of her and her soaked through t-shirt. The adrenaline started to creep up into my throat.
    "Cory, Cory," I yelled across my shoulder, "have you seen Caelin?" He paused his game and looked up. This time, he didn't ignore me; he must have heard the panicked tone underlying my voice. He dropped his ball and started towards the water. I hurried after him and waited to hear what we should do next.
    He told me we should split. I took the path up the beach towards the pier. As I walked, mostly sprinted up the beach, I tried not to look too much at any one person. I tried to remain calm, but inside my head was filling with all sorts of disastrous endings. Every person I saw, every man I looked at was possible my daughter's abductor. It chilled me.
    I walked a ll the way to the pier, and not finding her, walked around to the street level and walked down the sidewalk. I started looking in cars, searching for a struggling arm or leg in the air. I looked nervously into people's faces, sure I could weed out a guilty look. My imagination carried me away, into conversations and distraught phone calls.
    I walked back onto the beach, expecting to see the mayhem I felt. Not one person seemed ruffled, not one person seemed out of sorts. I could see no evidence of the trauma I was experiencing. I sought out my sister-in-law, beckoning her,
    " Has Cory found Caelin?"
    In a moments "yes", the drama stopped as quickly as it had begun. I turned to see Caelin walking towards me, way int he distance, clutching her daddy's hand, and her sea shell bucket in the other hand.