We scoured the house from top to bottom, from the far corner of the Poo Woods to the dry lowlands in the yard. We opened drawers, looked behind bushes, inside appliances, under every blanket. And then we did it all again. Nada.
I tried this morning to get Ethan to remember where he last had Bunny. Between naptime and bedtime were the foggy areas, which was unfortunate. Things got worse when he told me, "Bunny my beth fliend." At that point I called Mom, who proceeded to ask the Lord to lead one of us to Bunny.
Two minutes later, I felt a jolt of inspiration. I realized that my first mistake was not thinking like a toddler. What would make sense to a toddler? I went immediately into the kitchen, walked over to the old, empty Diaper Genie waiting to go under the house for storage, opened the thing at the hinge, and Lo! Bunny was found.
* * *
An hour later, while Noah and I were cleaning up the messes we made while searching for Bunny, I realized Ethan was awfully quiet. Which means one of two things: He's pooping and doesn't want us to know, because we'll suggest doing it on the potty; or he's doing some other un-kosher thing, like shoving a taper candle into the kettle spout (true story).
We walked around the house, from room to room, asking "Ethan?" behind each freshly opened door. It didn't take long; our house is 1,100 square feet. He wasn't in our bedroom, or our closet, or our bathroom. He wasn't in the main bathroom, or his bedroom, or the office. The television, playing Muppet Treasure Island (his choice), broadcast its noise to nobody.
Our calls grew louder.
My first thought: He's lying somewhere, choking, and can't respond.
Noah went out the front door, I went out the back. He wasn't in the flower bed out front. He wasn't in the copse of trees at the top of the hill or hiding under the deck. He was gone.
My second thought: He's wandered out, and somebody has taken him.
"Ethan!" I was nearly screaming as I ran through my neighbor's backyard toward the road behind our house that led out of the neighborhood. Since I last saw him, it had been three minutes, maybe four. Less than 300 seconds, but I could feel life turning a direction I wasn't willing to go.
Then I heard Noah shout, "I found him!" I stopped and began walking the steep slope back down to our house. I lifted my hand to my forehead. I didn't want the neighbors to see me crying, to know I had lost my son, even for a few minutes. Noah led me into the house, down the hall and into Ethan's room, where he was lying on the floor in a pile of stuffed animals. He was hiding. He had covered himself up and hadn't made a peep.
When I saw him there on the floor, reclining in a plush bed of bears and frogs and rabbits as though the world was perfect, I sobbed. For what might have been.