“I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and the new.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
June 23rd found us smack dab in the middle of a fabulous vacation in the Black Hills of South Dakota (which will eventually become a gratitude post in and of itself). On that particular day, Todd had already driven into Rapid City to have all four tires replaced on the Suburban (oops), and I backed into a tree (oops) and a truck (OOPS). In my defense, Elisabeth was exactly five weeks old and I was just a *little bit* sleep deprived. And the tree and the truck were just fine, thankyouverymuch. Well, the tree did have a bumper shaped dent in it, but it’ll heal.
We thought that we’d put our back luck behind us as Todd and Jakester watched helicopters while the older kids and I made it down the Presidential Alpine Slide (loved it!) without incident. We even went on to have a delightful tour through the Presidential Wax Museum (very well done). Keystone may very well be the most adorable little tourist trap town ever. And then, we arrived at Mt. Rushmore.
Wow! Just…wow. If you have never been there, you must go. We made it through the entrance without incident, and even managed to safely navigate the Avenue of Flags (very cool). We discovered that Jakob has an irrational fear of elevators as we rode one down to the Borglum Museum. The elevator came to a rest at the ground floor of the visitor’s center, Todd pried Jakob off his leg, and we headed out to fill up our water bottles at the handy dandy drinking fountain. When we turned to go into the museum, I noticed that Jakob was gone. Gone! Frantically we rushed through the museum, bookstore, and movie theaters looking for the little guy. No luck. We looked again. Nope. I eyed the double glass doors. He couldn’t possibly have gone through them, could he? After all, they were very, very heavy. Since it was our last resort, I decided to head outside to look for him.
And there he was, happily dancing on the ampitheather stage below us. Whew! We smothered him in hugs and kisses and then gave him the “do not run off while you are at a national memorial far, far away from home” lecture. It was powerful, it really was. I put a lot of emotion into it. But apparently what Jakob got from the lecture was something along the lines of “getting lost is really fun and you should do it every chance you get because it makes your family act really funny and gets you lots of great attention.” He spent the rest of the day disappearing. He disappeared in the bookstore. He disappeared in the museum. And the other museum. And the other one. He disappeared on the Presidential Trail (fabulous hike, by the way). And yes, we were watching him. All of us. But he is very crafty. All we had to do was blink and he would use the opportunity to escape. By the end of the day, we were all exhausted, and he was practically chained to the stroller. We were still totally digging Mount Rushmore, though.
We got some messy ice cream cones and found some seats in the ampitheater to wait for the lighting ceremony. I talked Todd into letting me buy a super cool puzzle of all the presidents. Did I mention that it was super cool? Jakob surprised us by playing nicely with the children seated behind us. We didn’t lose him even once during the half hour we were waiting for the show to begin. We loved the lighting ceremony! The ranger gave an inspiring talk about the four presidents’ childhoods (awesome), the flag ceremony was very moving, and Mount Rushmore was breathtaking when it was lit up. It was really a beautiful evening. As the crowd started a mass exodus toward the parking garage, we gathered up our children, making SURE that we had Jakob with us. Most of the people took the stairs, but since we had the stroller with us, we got in the long line for the elevator. Jakob was still with us, sitting nicely in the stroller. We made polite conversation with the people behind us. Several minutes passed. The group right in front of us got on the elevator. A few more minutes passed. The elevator door opened up to reveal that it was still full of the group right ahead of us. They had forgotten to push the “2” button. They looked sheepish, the elevator door closed again, and up they went.
Finally, FINALLY it was our turn. We entered the elevator, Jakob glommed onto Todd’s leg, and I happily counted heads. One, two, three, four, five. Five. FIVE!!! We were missing Josh. And had been for at least ten minutes. My six year old was lost somewhere in a gigantic crowd of people headed for not one, but two parking garages in a giant national memorial which was totally unfamiliar to him in a state which was totally unfamiliar to us. And I was trapped in a moving elevator and couldn’t do a thing about it. NOT FUN. As soon as the elevator stopped, we rushed into action. I sent Emma back to look in our seats, Sarah to the ranger stations, Daniel to the parking lot, and Todd to all of the various stores. I waited in the center of the plaza with the two little ones. The minutes ticked by. I kept making frantic phone calls to the searchers, only to be told he hadn’t been found yet. Sarah, Daniel, and Emma had all returned to me, only to be sent out again to search more carefully. About twenty minutes into the ordeal, Josh still hadn’t been found. I was freaking. out. We were trying to figure out how to contact the police, or security (where WERE they?) or anyone else who might be willing to help when Daniel called. Joshua had finally been spotted crying in the giant parking lot and a nice family had returned him to the ranger station. I could breathe again! I called the rest of the family to give them the good news (I am also very thankful for cell phones), and we RAN to the ranger station. There he was, still sobbing. He insisted on riding in the stroller the rest of the way out to our suburban. The poor little guy was pretty traumatized.
As we made our way down one of the stair ramps, we heard someone say, “Josh, did you find your family?” It was his savior, a very nice lady with three kids of her own. We all thanked her profusely, but in retrospect, it wasn’t nearly enough. I should have hugged her and pledged my undying devotion and maybe even given her my super cool puzzle for returning my easy-going, always happy, awesome little boy to me.
Thank you, nice Mount Rushmore lady.