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  • Yesterday it was hot. Not just the kind of hot that feels good on your skin, relieved by a cool breeze or iced cold drink...but the kind of hot that feels thick, that gets stuck in your clothes, hangs in your lungs and wraps around you, making every movement feel like a struggle.

    And I decide to spend the day at a kid's amusement park with my sister and our four kids.

    Lily doesn't like to get her face wet so the first ride, while thrilling for the others, is like a nightmare to her. The water splashes all over us, water falling from sprinklers above and finally, the big drop that sends the cool liquid way up in the air, falling down all around us and filling the tube. The other kids shriek with excitement. Lily just shrieks. "That is not a ride for kids," she tells me.

    The next two hours are a series of complaints - this one is too hot, this one is hungry, this one doesn't want to go on a water ride, this one does. Long lines, terrible food, crowds of people stopping short in front of us - I start to feel myself going to that place in my mind - the one that wonders how I got here...34, married, living in the suburbs, a mother of two. I think about being 17; writing poems, smoking cigarettes, drinking cheap liquor & getting lost in imagining a crazy, unpredictable, exciting life. I cringe at the thought of another trip to this amusement park - chasing after one child, trying to entertain another. For a moment I catch myself wanting to run away.

    Then the kids decide they want to climb the nets - an intricate high-rise of twisted rope, tunnels and enclosures that hangs over a large area of the park. "It will tire them out." I think and we head in that direction - the six of us, shuffling our feet, sweating, moving through the crowds with purpose. We pass the entrance, a set of brightly colored stairs, and I instruct the kids where to start. I turn and Mia is not there.

    I start to scream her name - my eyes scanning every direction. My sister runs to the other side of the play area. "She's not here."

    Frantically, I dart up the stairs...Lily and my oldest nephew with me. We are all shouting her name. We hang over the railings; searching, screaming. My mind races. "Someone took her." And immediately I am lost myself; my mind wanders off to the most terrifying places. I am sweating with fear now and I locate a security guard who assures me no child has ever been taken from the park. We all continue to look together; running from one side to the next, engaging strangers to help us in the search.

    Finally, exhausted, I ask the security guard to take me to the area they call "Lost Parents". He told me an announcement would have been made if she was there but he agrees its worth a try and we walk quickly together. I squeeze Lily tightly in my arms. As we turn a corner and get closer, I see familiar eyes peering just above the window ledge ahead. I race towards her. Lily is beaming. "My sister!"

    As soon as she is in my arms I am in tears. My heart is pounding, my clothing soaked; my mind...calm. For a moment I know what it really feels like to be lost. And I am instantly reminded of why I don't ever run away.
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