This isn’t really my story to tell, but because the person whose story it is to tell is still slightly traumatized by it– I decided to put the fingers to the keyboard.
On Saturday, we – the four of us plus Brett’s parents who had just arrived the night before – had decided to walk into the City Centre to go to the Farmer’s Market and see some sites. It was epically cold and windy -- another day in Luxembourg where winter refuses to give way to spring. Bundled up for the twenty-five minute walk, we headed out. One family member was particularly pissy about the plan. He, the one with no shoelaces and cold air running straight to his toes, wanted to take the bus.
As I’ve written before, we abide by the notion of Solvitur Ambulando (to solve it by walking) and so we walked in hopes that the straggler would follow. The Grandparents were somewhat uncomfortable with this plan, but we were certain that forward motion would provide the impetus for if not a change of heart, at least an acceptance of the “plot to freeze our family to death.” By the time we got to a major street crossing, the lack of evidence that the foot dragger was behind caused us to rethink our strategy.* We determined that the stubborn, newly bus-riding-independent ten year old had made a break for the bus. So Brett decided to circle back by way of the bus stop in search of him while we kept moving forward.
* This strategy should have a smaller radius. Noted.
Once we got to the City Center, my phone rang. It was Brett, and I fully expected to hear a new plan on where we would meet up with him and our AWOL son. He was calm, but no - he had not yet found Colin. He had walked the entire neighborhood and went back to the apartment, and was now on the bus following the route that Colin would have taken. We then reviewed the talk tract he would deliver when he found him on how it’s not cool to take the bus by yourself without permission. Determined to not let this spoil the first day with his parents, Brett advised us to keep going and that he’d be in touch. Now worry and I are close companions, but somehow given how safe this city is and how calm Brett was – I ditched worry ** and clung to my desire to be engaging tour guide. We made a bee line for my favorite Greek stall at the market.
** Brett picked up what I left behind. We sometimes do that for each other in marriage.
Meanwhile what followed was fifteen horrible minutes for Brett. A horrible fifteen minutes he shielded me from. A man saw Brett on the bus and motioned to him about a crying boy, and grabbed his arm to hop on another bus. The young man, in his mid-twenties, didn’t have a word of English and was frantically trying his best to communicate. A no longer calm Brett couldn’t understand anything he was saying and was desperately trying through hand gestures to find out if Colin was hurt. The man called for anyone on the bus who spoke English. A woman in her mid-seventies came forward to help translate but then shoke her finger in Brett’s face and said “tsk, tsk – you don’t know where your ten year old son is?” as she got off on her stop. Realizing they were heading back towards the apartment, Brett and the man continued to unsuccessfully communicate for the duration of the ride. Finally, they got back to the stop closes to our apartment and the man was able to motion to Brett to go back to the apartment while he waited there. Brett raced home – his heart in his throat.
He found Colin in the lobby. Safe, warm, and happy. He was with a woman. His guardian angel. Helena.
Colin had not gotten on the bus. He had gone to the bus stop, but then
detoured back towards us. When Brett
went to find him, they walked in a circle completely missing each other. The young man had found Colin on a street
corner crying and when they couldn’t communicate, he flagged down a car. Helena was that car. Colin was able to explain to Helena, a
Portuguese mother of two with good English, what had happened. The young man urged Colin to let Helena help
him. Rightfully conflicted about not
going with a stranger, Colin agreed to let the Mama Helena accompany him as he retraced our
steps but he didn’t want her to call the police. He
didn’t know our new cell phone numbers***, but he did have Brett’s email
address. (Brett didn’t think to check
his email.) More circling happened until
Helena suggested they go and wait at the apartment building lobby. She waited there with him – forgoing the
errand she was on her way to do –until Brett arrived. After much thanks from Brett, Helena hugged and kissed her new young friend goodbye. Brett then rushed back to the bus
stop via car to let the young man know that he had been found. The young man’s eyes filled with tears when
he saw the two of them drive up, and he wouldn’t let Brett give him a lift to
where he was heading an hour before. He,
the less celebrated but perhaps even more important second guardian angel, was
just happy they were together. His job complete.
*** Totally our fault. Noted.
In a world where we now have to be wary of strangers, it’s
harder to trust that angels abound – but they do. And when they touch you in human form, they
make you want to be that angel for someone else one day. You don’t even have to share a language. As Colin said: “What if Helena had made one
red light earlier? She wouldn’t have seen me.” But she did see him, and she
stopped because another angel sent out a flare, and she comforted a scared boy
who’s learned that you should never walk away. ****
**** But isn't it comforting to know, that even when we walk away sometimes -- they are angels waiting to bring us back.