This blog entry is in response to this Daily Post prompt: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_assignment/writing-101-series-one/
A church potluck brings up all sorts of fond memories. Conversing with other church members, the delicious smells of all the homemade foods, the laughter of the children as they run around and play. These are all common and welcome parts of any church potluck. Rarely though have I attended one where I spent a portion of the night in total, abject fear.
Several years ago we were going to such a potluck at the church we had been attending for some time. It was typically held downstairs in the basement and this night would be no different. Our youngest daughter wasn’t too old at the time, I believe she was probably six or seven. In her mind she was “all grown up” though. She had come to us that day and asked if she could go off and play with her friends. She wanted to do this without Mommy and Daddy watching over her, however.
She looked up at me with her deep, soulful eyes filled with expectant hope at the idea of playing like the big kids do and of course my heart melted. “Ok, sweetheart, you can go play but you stay downstairs. Don’t go running off upstairs, understand?” She nodded and away she went.
I went back to my meal and for a time I had put her out of my mind. But it wasn’t long before my wife or I thought it was time to check on her. I stood up from my chair and looked around at the various kids playing in the church but I couldn’t find her.
“Do you see her, hon?” I asked my wife. She looked around but couldn’t see her either.
I began to get a little annoyed. I specifically told her not to leave the downstairs area and she was nowhere to be found. I headed upstairs to find my kid, muttering under my breath as I did so.
I walked around the church and couldn’t find her anywhere. She wasn’t in the auditorium or any of the hallways. I stood there for a moment scratching my head. “Where could she be?” I thought to myself.
The pastor’s office and various meeting rooms were on the second floor of the church. This wasn’t a place where she would be used to going into but it was the only place left. I headed up there, sure I was going to find her playing some game with one of the other church kids.
But, much to my increasing frustration, I was unable to find her on this floor either. I went into every room and checked all over but she wasn’t anywhere. My frustration was quickly switching to fear.
I ran back down to the first floor and outside yelling for my daughter. One of the other church members asked what was wrong. “I can’t find Nora!” I told him. He came inside and began to help me look around the church again.
I headed back up to the second floor and looked around once more, my heart beating frantically in my chest. I started thinking of all the horrible things that could have befallen her. She’s hurt somewhere or she stepped outside and somebody lurking around the church decided to steal her away from us. My voice was trembling as I kept yelling her name, “Nora! Where are you?”
I finally went downstairs to the basement and told my wife I couldn’t find her.
“What? Have you looked up near the Pastor’s office? How about outside?” she asked.
“Yes, dear, I looked everywhere.” I said, exasperated.
“Did you check the rooms down here?”
“Yes, Norene of COURSE, I che…” I paused. “Down here?”
“Yeah, like the nursery over there?” she pointed in the direction of the nursery, whose door was currently closed. A bit embarrassed, I turned and headed that way.
I opened up the door to the nursery and sure enough, there was my daughter, playing a game with one of her friends from church. She looked up at me and smiled, “Hi, Daddy!”
Relief washed over me in waves. I went over to her, bent down and kissed her on the head. “Hey, kiddo. Having fun?”
“You bet! And I stayed downstairs like you told me to!” she replied.
“Yes, you did, Pipsqueak. Yes, you did.” I turned, leaving her to finish her game and headed back to my bride, who was waiting for me with a knowing grin.