Back many moons ago, when Sugar entered first grade, I thought it would be super cute to get her a fancy backpack with her name embroidered on it. I was excited and perused some high falutin’ website looking for just the right one. Then a thought occurred to me…
Me: Hey Sugar, if a person knows your name, are they a stranger?
Sugar: Of course not! Anybody that knows my name is my friend.
Fabulous. There goes the cute back pack. Disney Princess it is.
Fast forward a few years and now she’s in 5th grade. I thought that I had gotten so much better about teaching her (and Spice) about strangers… about how kids aren’t supposed to talk to them… about how kids should tell their parents when they see a stranger lurking… about how it’s ok to run screaming if a stranger talks to them. We’ve talked about this shit. I’ve drilled it into their heads. Wherein lies the mystery?
Over the last year or two, there have been various stories of a man approaching girls waiting at bus stops and trying to get them into his car. I don’t know how many cases there have been, and I don’t know if they are related. The first time this happened, there were whispered comments about the story being made up. Then it happened again. Then it happened in towns surrounding ours. Then there was nothing.
In January I received an emergency email from the school district. There was another incident. A female middle-school student was waiting alone for the morning school bus and a man came along and asked her if she needed a ride. He grabbed her; she lost her balance and hit her face on the car. He let go of her and took off. I silently thanked God that he was unsuccessful in his attempt. And still I wonder: are these attempts related or not? No one is really saying. I guess I could try to find all the news stories and draw my own conclusions…
Every morning, I drive Sugar to the bus stop. Our new bus stop has heavy parental presence. I normally stay until the bus comes but occasionally Sugar will want to wait with her friends. Since there are other parents there I was ok with letting her stand outside with her friends. The few times I left her at the bus stop I passed the bus on its way up the street.
Yesterday morning Sugar and I left at our usual time. Even though there is only a cul-de-sac and one house to the left, I try to be good about checking to see if anyone’s coming from that direction… not that there ever has been, but better to be safe. When I glanced to the left, I noticed a car idling in the circle. I mentioned it to Sugar and said, “Seems weird.”
My brilliant child said, “Oh that car? It was there yesterday too.” Come again? While pressing on my left eyeball to keep it in my skull, I said, “You mean to tell me that there was a car sitting there and you didn’t think to tell your mother?” I’ll admit, when we first moved in, there was a lot going on down at the circle. People trucked in their four-wheelers or hunted back there. We kept the girls from going down there. Now that it’s winter, it’s quiet there. No one goes there and just sits…
We sat at the bus stop while I replayed the idling car in my head. My Mommy Alarm clicked to high. Something really bothered me about that car sitting down there, all by its lonesome… a weird place to hang out. I watched out my side mirror, but couldn’t see all the way to where the car had been sitting. I told myself to be prepared to get his plate number if he drove past. Too soon, he was roaring down the road in his car. Too fast for me to get a good look at him, too fast for me to get his plate number. Son of a bitch! The driver seemed to take great pains in avoiding eye contact, or perhaps it was my Mommy Alert being on high that made it seem that way.
Sugar got on the bus and I started the drive to work. I considered stopping in at the police station, but thought better of it. I finally just called the police and reported the incident. Maybe it was nothing, maybe it was significant. I felt stupid that I was unable to give them a plate number or even a very good description of the driver. But this girl knows cars. I was able to give them the color, make and model. I am pretty sure my judgment on the year of the car was pretty accurate too.
The woman that I reported the incident to asked a bunch of questions and thanked me for calling. I wasn’t sure if they’d take my call seriously or not. EN and a neighbor both told me that the cops were all over the ‘hood all day. This morning, every time I glanced out my window, a cruiser was driving by. While we waited at the bus stop, the cruiser drove by twice, then pulled up ahead and waited for the bus to come.
Apparently, they are taking my call seriously. I’m not sure what I said that triggered their response. Perhaps the green car I described matched the description given by the girl that was grabbed in January. I just don’t know. As much as it was eerie seeing so much police presence, it was reassuring at the same time. I’m glad to know they aren’t all hanging at the Dunkins down the road talking about the crazy broad who called to report a green car idling at the corner.
And maybe, just maybe, they’re a step closer to finding the guy responsible for these various incidents. This gave me a chance to remind my girls that they need to tell their parents when something is amiss... and that the "something amiss" isn't necessarily a bad guy wearing all black hiding in the bushes.