I’m sure there’s some writing advice out there that says not to give away the punchline in the title but alas. Rules were made to be broken, dammit!
My brother and I had an incredible childhood, for which we both are eternally grateful; our parents worked hard to give us everything they didn’t have, to provide a great education, and to take us on trips around the US and Europe. The first international Schwartau trip happened in 1996, the summer before I began middle school and provided a lot of memorable experiences for me as I faced new culinary challenges as well as pissed my dad off more than I think I ever have in my life. I discovered Paris and the beginning of a life-long love affair with the French language. It was also the trip when I nearly went back to being an only child.
(Not so lucky, though.)
We had one whole day in Venice. We took a speed boat out to the isle of Murano. We fed the birds in St. Mark’s Square. And we gazed at gondolas floating up and down the picturesque canals.
We also went shopping. And while my mom and I went into some tourist shop, my dad was hanging out with my brother near one of the many canal-crossing bridges. When my mom and I came out, my dad was alone.
“There. He said he was going to look at that bridge.”
We look at the bridge. We don’t see my brother.
My mom starts to freak out. “Where is he? He’s not there!”
Panic begins to grip all three of us as we search for my six year old brother. We ask passers-by and other tourists if they’ve seen a little boy with a mullet in a green baseball cap. We go in and out of stores, mi scusi, miming about my missing sibling. My mom is crying and yelling. My dad is tense, yelling back. My parents are fighting and my little brother has surely been kidnapped so I start crying.
I’m not entirely sure how long this went on or even if it was as dramatic as all this but memory shows it to me as a seriously intense, half hour period of high tension and drama.
In reality, it was probably all of five minutes.
Eventually, we found my brother. He was sitting on a step on the other side of the bridge my dad originally pointed at. He was very surprised to be wrapped up in our arms and tears. He thought he was in trouble, that he’d done something wrong. So he started crying.
“I asked Daddy if I could play on the bridge,” he said. Neither he nor my father had specified which side of the bridge.
Needless to say, I did not become an only child that day, Adam was perfectly safe, and my mother did not let either of us out of her sight for the remainder of the two week trip.
Have you ever lost a child in a crowded public place? Have you ever been lost? What’s your worst vacation experience?