So sometimes life slaps you in the face so hard, that you cannot help but realise what's important and what's not. Reality slapped me today. Hard. So effing hard, in fact, that my left cheek has become my right cheek, and my right cheek has become an extension of my right ear.
Honestly, for fifteen minutes, my world came to a screeching halt. My will to breathe ceased. I begged for my heart to give up the ghost, and for my body to hit the floor with a deadly thump. But was, at the same time, so manic in my desperation to end the feeling that I found myself tearing around Woolies unaware of tears streaming down my face while yelling obscenities that would make a sailor blush.
So The Incubator, The Daughter and I set off on a spot of shopping today. This is an important outing to make, at this time of year, given that we're currently in the throes of celebrating my birthmonth. And so will often say things like, "The Daughter, Mom really likes those cushions and that throw. Maybe you should buy them for me for my birthday," (The Daughter would buy the earth for me if she had the means) in a really loud voice. It's important to drop hints to present buyers. Loud ones. Ones like, "If I don't own that item I will surely not make it through the next six months. The depression will be so fierce that I will have no option but to resort to bulimia."
So I was admiring pumps when The Daughter played her favourite hiding trick. She thinks it's funny. I certainly don't. Like not at all. And when, a moment later, I turned round to tell her that we were moving on to another section, she was gone. But like gone gone. Like nowhere to be seen.
I promptly broke into a fine film of sweat and starting behaving like a lunatic. The Incubator and I began searching so furiously and in such a disorganised fashion that we kept bumping into each other and chanting in unison, "Have you found her? Fuck!"
Then I found a worker person:
The Pant: Excuse me, The Daughter has just gone missing. From this very spot.
Worker Person: What's she wearing?
The Pant: Denim dress. Pink shirt. White tights. Denim pumps.
WP: Sweet. And her name?
TP: The Daughter. Now I've got fuck all time for 'sweet this' and 'cute that'. I need to find her. Right fucking now. So your job is to close all the exits to this store. Get the music switched off. And tell every other customer to shut the fuck up so The Daughter can hear me screaming for her. Do you understand me?
WP: I'll see what I can do.
TP: No, lovie. This is not a time for seeing what you can do. It's a time for finding my daughter. Now you get these doors locked right now, or I'll slap Woolworths with such a crippling lawsuit, that the entire franchise will go under, they'll blame you, and your great grandchildren's children will still be paying it off in the year twenty-one thirteen. Okay?
(The Father is a lawyer, you see. I think he's such a fine lawyer that I'm convinced he would have been able to get Adolf Hitler off. And so I feel quite confident when making threats of this nature.)
And I continued on the search. The Incubator had gone a level down, in her wisdom, and had found The Daughter ambling out of the store. The doors being locked was clearly of little importance to Worker Person who found it far more gratifying to look at her image in a handheld mirror while talking to her boyfriend, a welder from Montclair, I'm sure, on the phone.
Our reunion was nothing short of the most emotional experience of my life. I grabbed hold of The Daughter and pressed her into my body with such force that I now have a dent in the shape of a four-year-old girl on my front. I wept with such relief that I now understand those loud sobs that actresses make when they act that they're experiencing a really emotional moment. I was wailing in such a heartfelt manner that the by-standers were sobbing too.
I have not put The Daughter down since that moment. And have drafted a terse-worded email to Woolworths on their lack of missing child procedure. And I've realised that during those 6 or 7 minutes (which felt like a gloomy lifetime) in which The Daughter was missing, I didn't think about my job, or my car or whether my bum looked big in those jeans. I didn't think about the increase in electricity, or whether Particularly Beefy is ever going to phone me again. I didn't think about anything but my girl. And, by Jiminy Crickets, am I glad to have her back.
We're jetting off to Cape Town tomorrow. I've dug up the old harness and she'll be wearing it for the entire duration of our stay. You can count on that for sure.