I didn’t even notice when my daughter disappeared, to be honest.
She went out to let the chickens out like she does every day. Since it was a weekend morning, I was busy collecting laundry and sweeping and whatever it is I do that seems to fill my weekend mornings. So it took me a while to notice that she hadn’t come back in.
“Huh,” I thought. “That’s odd.”
I looked up toward the tire swing, where she usually hangs out. The chicken coop is there, as well as a big boulder she likes to climb on. I didn’t see her.
I went downstairs to the kitchen to clean it up. I kept a general eye out the window, expecting to see her playing around in the snow like she sometimes does to avoid cleaning her room. Nothing.
“She’s nine years old,” I told myself. “She’s plenty old enough to be playing out in the woods by herself. You want her to be playing in the woods by herself. That’s your goal.”
But still. It was weird that I couldn’t see her anywhere. Her jacket is bright blue, so it’s not like she blends in with the relentless brown, gray, and white that’s out my windows right now.
I moved on to picking up the living room. I couldn’t see her on that side of the house either. “This is ridiculous,” I thought. “Where could she have gone? She’s supposed to tell me if she goes down the road.”
Did I care? Was I worried? I couldn’t even tell. I encourage my kids to go explore. I often long for the good old days when kids would just wander off, out of sight, for hours. I try to get them to do that. And here it was, happening to me, and I was strangely unnerved.
“Maybe I should take the compost out,” I thought. “I can look for her while I do that.”
So I crossed the yard to the compost bin, casually glancing around the whole way. Still no blue jacket. I was puzzled. This was so out of character for her. I decided not to worry and went back inside. I was surprised I had to decide it. I was surprised I was worried.
She finally appeared inside about ten minutes later, pink-cheeked and breathing heavily.
“Where did you go?” I asked, trying to sound off-hand.
“You didn’t see me?” she answered.
“No,” I said.
“Good,” she said. “I didn’t want you to. I was practicing my stalking technique.”
Of course she was.
I knew it all along.