I now know fear. Fear so cold it ripped out my heart and filled my stomach with lead. Fear so intense it felt like it lasted an hour when it was probably only a minute or less. Fear so complete I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs and stop the world.
I lost Harper.
Just like they say, it only took a second. I was watching her and her brother like a hawk, like I always do. I never look down, I never look away, I never assume the world is safe. But on this day I was with one of my best friends, a friend I haven't seen in more than three years. And her kids were playing with my kids and everyone was well. Sandra and I were talking, though I was watching, and I could listen to her stories and see my daughter playing by the big kid Legos all at the same time. I can multitask well.
Then Sandra said something, I glanced at her to respond, and I turned back to Harper. It took less than three seconds. But when I looked back, she wasn't there. Thinking perhaps she'd squatted down to find a Lego, I didn't instantly worry. Then I got up, said I'd be right back, and went over to see my girl. But she wasn't by the big kid Legos. So I walked to the side of Legoland, but she wasn't there. So I called her name. Loudly. Like she would actually answer me or come running. I called her again. I saw her brother and yelled, "Find! Your! Sister!" I took off running into the Legoland store, ran to the front of the store, looked down every aisle. I saw my friend get up and start looking. I was panicked. I felt like ice. I felt like my eyes weren't seeing anything and I wouldn't recognize her even if I looked right at her.
I ran back out into the play area. She wasn't there.
I ran back into the store. And there she was. Reaching for a box of Legos.
I grabbed my girl and held her so tightly. Every possible scenario of what could have happened ran through my mind, and I gratefully thought "It didn't happen!" She was there. She hugged me back. She had no idea how scared I was, how much worry she caused. How fast she is.
I held it together. I didn't cry, I didn't fall apart, I just said, "Whew! She's quick!" But my friend knew. She knew I was trembling. She knew I was not strong enough to deal if something had happened to my girl. We didn't speak of it, because what mom wants to say those thoughts out loud? We just went on with our day, took our kids on rides, hugged good-bye when our time was over.
Then I bought my kids a snack and we went home. Like any normal day. And we never talked about how I lost Harper. I couldn't say those words out loud. Not then.
It was too real. It was too close.