This is one of those tales that end up being a family fable. The kind of a story that starts out as something that happened within the family and ends up with near myth-like endurance as the tale winds down through a multitude of years and tellers. Of course, when such is tale is really true; then myth becomes reality...
When I was a young mother I was always harried. Between kids and cribs, food and family, I really didn’t have time to reason out things. I just continued to do what I had to do – day in and day out. But one day, something horrible happened! Wally disappeared! I had started to put all 3 kids down for their naps and Kirsty promptly fell asleep in her little bed. Lenny was fussing a bit but he did go into his crib and quickly settled down. I went to look for Wally to tuck him in for a nap. That’s when I realized he wasn’t in sight!
It wasn’t that I usually put the youngest to bed last. It was that when naptime came around, I’d simply scoop up whoever was closest and put them down for their nap until I had all 3 tucked in. Now I had 2 of the kids tucked in and number three wasn’t anywhere around that I could see.
Although it was winter, the apartment, as usual, was very hot from the radiators. We never did figure out how to turn down the heat in any of the rooms. Before the children came along I had kept a huge, 5 gallon pot of water simmering much of the day to make it easier to breathe. We could breathe better but the place was even hotter. Once the babies started to come along, I didn’t have to use anything to increase the moisture. I had no clothes dryer. Few did in that time. I was either soaking diapers or, more likely, washing diapers or hanging diapers. We had a wringer washer and I tried to wash daily because of the diaper load but I was hampered by the lack of drying space. I had lines strung all through the dining room but once the diapers filled them up, I had to wait until they were dry before I could hang more clothes to dry. Of course, when I was trying to dry diapers, the moisture increased enough to breathe easier.
The heat is why I usually left all three babies in only diapers and sometimes a shirt of some sort. That meant Wally was crawling around, who knows where, in only a diaper and light shirt. At first I was sure I’d find Wally very quickly. There weren’t many hiding spots.
The area in which the kids had freedom to play consisted of a large dining room, the kitchen, their nursery and the bathroom. There was a long hall going past the bathroom where a folding gate locked the kids out of the living room and master bedroom where their Daddy was sleeping because that month he was working nights. Above all, everyone had to be quiet at that end of the apartment. Luckily this was a huge apartment in an older building. You couldn’t hear anything through the walls, the ceilings or floors. Unless the kids were playing down at that end of the hall, Daddy wouldn’t hear them for all the noise 3 youngsters less than three years of age would make.
The bathroom was usually closed until someone indicated they had to go potty. So a glance down the hall showed it was empty. That left only the dining room, nursery and kitchen. I called out for Wally but really didn’t expect a response. He was all of 7 months old and still didn’t respond in a meaningful way to his name. When we’d call his name Wally would giggle or smile or wave but he didn’t use his voice to let us know that he knew what we wanted. That worried me. Without Wally letting me know where he was, he could be anywhere in the apartment. I started looking for him at the back of the apartment.
I began to worry a bit. The back door was hooked at the very top and the children were still very young…but maybe one of the older ones figured out how to unhook the back door. I was concerned because it was winter. Although Wally couldn’t get out of the back porch area, he’d be very cold in nothing more than a diaper. So I checked there first. I promptly realized that neither Kirsty nor Lenny could reach the hook even if one of them had figured out how to pull a chair over to the door and climb on it. No one was in the pantry or kitchen. I even checked the cabinets that were under the sink – no Wally.
Aha! Even with a daily washing session and a separate diaper pail, there were constant clothing changes that made a daily washing a necessary part of every day. Maybe he’d crawled into the dirty laundry that would pile up underneath one of the cribs. That made sense because it had happened before and, after all, this was naptime, maybe Wally was asleep under Lenny’s crib. So I went to the nursery and quietly checked the small laundry pile that was under the bed. The pile wasn’t big enough to hide even a 7-month-old. His head or his diaper would be sticking out. I checked the toy closet – no Wally! Now I was flummoxed and starting to get very worried!
I checked the built-in dining room buffet. He hadn’t crawled into to lower cabinets.
Maybe Wally had squeezed through the bottom of the folding gate at the end of the hallway. That would mean that he’d be crawling around the huge living room. The living room was 17 feet by 25 feet which allowed us to easily fit in 3 full couches and a couple of chairs, plus the TV and two coffee tables. At most he’d be behind one of the sofas. I tiptoed past the door to the Lenny’s bedroom which was slightly ajar but that was usual. I looked behind each couch and chair – no Wally!
By this time I was totally stumped! Where could a 7-month-old baby crawl to? I was positive Wally had not gotten out of the apartment. The front door was locked up tight with more than one deadbolt. My next thought was that Wally had crawled into his Dad’s bedroom. That also was a very large room and had a large walk-in closet. I began to panic. Lenny always carefully put his service revolver up high but he had his hunting rifle in a carrying case and that was on the floor of the closet. Nah! Wally couldn’t open the gun case! Could he?
Now I wanted to be really quiet! Lenny did not take well to waking up in the middle of his ‘nightly sleep’ even if it was daytime for the rest of the world. I tippy-toed into the closet, shut the door and turned on the light. No baby was on the floor and I realized that even the rifle was on the highest shelf there was. I remember moving the clothes on hangers and thinking, “Why am I looking here? Do I really expect the kid to crawl up into some of our clothes and hang there in a kind of really weird game of hide-and-seek?” I shut off the light and slowly came out of the closet. A touch of daylight invaded the room even with the shades pulled down. I went slowly and quietly to each place where a tiny baby could hide. Obviously Wally hadn’t made any noise to wake up his father so…under the bed!!! That was the last place I had not looked. If he wasn’t there I would have to wake Lenny and tell him I was a terrible mother who lost Wally! Lenny would know what to do.
But first I carefully and slowly knelt next to the bed, leaned down and pulled up the bed-skirt. A lot of dust but no Wally! I got up and walked to the other side of the bed. Maybe I was just missing something! I had to be super quiet there because that was the side where Lenny was sleeping. Again I knelt down, pulled up the bed-skirt and looked under the bed. Still no Wally!
I slowly raised my head and found myself looking into Lenny’s wide open eyes.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
I was petrified. Now I had to admit that I was a terrible mother. I had lost my baby…in my own apartment. “Wally is lost!” I whispered.
“Huh? What? Who is lost?” Lenny was wide-eyed at my stupidity as a mother.
“Wally is lost!” I began to cry and wail in desperation. “I lost Wally!”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes…” I sniveled as I gave the rundown on all the places I’d looked. “I looked on the back porch and all the rooms and in the living room. I even checked the bathroom although the door was shut.” By then my tears were flowing freely. I knew Lenny would be angry but it was a relief to let someone else share my frustration.
Lenny propped his head up on one arm and asked, “Are you sure you looked everywhere?”
“Yes! I can’t think of a place I haven’t looked!”
“Can I suggest that you look around again?” By now Lenny was grinning and I had no idea why.
I began to get up from the floor but Lenny stopped me. “No. No. Look around here!”
I did, I looked under the bed again. When my head popped up to look at Lenny he was past grinning and was laughing out loud! “Keep looking! I can tell you that Wally is not under the bed!”
I had no idea what Lenny was laughing about but I looked around, easily moving that bundle in my left arm to look in all corners of the bedroom.
Bundle in my left arm…What bundle in my left arm? I looked at the bundle. There was blue-eyed little Wally giggling at me. There was Lenny laughing at me. There I was – totally shocked! I had been wandering from room to room, looking under and in back of anything that might be big enough to hide a baby. And he had been in my arms the whole time.
I had become the ultimate mother.
Filed under: Tales of the Kiddies