It was the craziest time of day-- just before dinner time-- and we had decided to eat outside. There was a good deal of traffic going in and out of the house and a great deal of noise--the dinner time din. The boys were everywhere and nowhere and always underfoot. Alex reported at one point that Nicholas had removed his clothing and was running about outdoors in a diaper. Jeremy found him and dressed him while I finished cooking fajitas and asked children to bring napkins and forks outside.
I carried a hot and heavy pot with mitts through the house toward the deck where we were eating. As I was filling the plates, I became aware of a strange noise. It was something like barking or yelping, but the longer it went on the more I realized that the voice was human. But why, and who was making such a dreadful sound? Through the twin screens of the sunroom, I made out a figure near the front of the house-- a woman with an angry face and she seemed to be yelling at me.
"Excuse me... excuse me... excuse me" I finally understood her wrathful tone to signify. My husband appeared on the front lawn and she addressed him instead, "There are two children in this car out on the street!" she screamed in anger at my poor husband.
She was right.
Nicholas and Zachary had somehow given us the slip and done something they have never done before and that I would never have thought them likely to do. They snuck away unnoticed (It seemed to me impossible that they had gotten away. Wasn't Zachary on the potty? Wasn't Nicholas with Jeremy upstairs? ) and went into the street where Jeremy's car had been parked and climbed into it.
It was the crazy sort of flukish thing that kids do from time to time-- the unexpected that we should all expect. The sort of thing that degausses our nervous systems and reminds us that we aren't really in complete control and that more time spent praying to guardian angels would be time very well spent. It happens. It happens to good parents, to caring parents, to parents who are very attentive. This woman's anger was unjustified.
"Thank you. I will take care of it." I heard my husband reply in a tone that was calm, though not friendly.
"If you don't get these children this instant, I will call the police," she threatened.
At this point, I was in the sunroom and spoke through a single screen, "Excuse me, Ma'm, but why are you yelling at us?" I asked in as calm a tone as I could manage. I sounded good to myself, though I felt as though I might faint.
"Because you have children out here in the street in a dangerous situation," she yelled at me.
"Yes," I replied, "but we were unaware of the situation. You could have just told us. You didn't have to yell."
At that point, she walked away in feigned disgust. Jeremy retrieved the little imps and brought them around back for dinner. We let our blood cool as we ate silently thinking over what had just happened. It was alarming that the babies had snuck off into the street and we were grateful that this woman had called our attention to it. Her tone and her threat, however, indicated that she judged us negligent or incompetent and that simply was not justified. Every parent knows that these misadventures can happen in an instant and this one certainly did.
We took the occasion to emphasize to the little ones that they must never, never go into the street or into the cars without us and we resolved to lock the doors on each of the vehicles at all times, even when they are parked in the street. We also took the occasion to reflect on the feelings of anger that can so easily arise when we feel we are falsely accused and how hard it can be to extend charity to those we believe misjudge us. So, the event wasn't all just a waste of our emotional energies. I hope that woman, whoever she was, can say the same.