About fourteen years ago, Hubs had gone from sales into management and we found ourselves entertaining a lot from our home. Typically, we would have the person he was recruiting and their spouse over for dinner, and send the girls over to their grandmother’s house, since she lived right behind us. However, one particular night, the couple we’d invited asked if they could bring their three-year-old daughter with them. M & E, 8 and 5 respectively at the time, were excited at the prospect of “babysitting”, so we made it a family affair.

They arrived about 6:30 with a darling little girl, her hair in perfectly-curled “dog-ears”, a la “Cindy Brady”. My girls each took her by the hand, and off they went to play until dinner. Everyone was well-behaved through the meal, and then, with full tummies, they settled in to watch a movie while the grown-ups talked business. It was all very normal. Until the TWO-HOUR movie was over and the couple showed no signs whatsoever of leaving.

E, my Energizer Bunny by day whose batteries totally lost juice by 8:30 or 9:00 at night, barely made it through the movie and announced that she was going to bed. Figuring that little “Cindy” would also be shutting things down in short order (she was THREE for crying out loud), I asked M to get ready for bed, and then keep her company for a little while longer until her parents were ready to leave. I said this, of course, in front of her parents, in hopes of speeding things along. They, however, were apparently oblivious to my powers of suggestion, as they asked for another cup of coffee and fired another question or fifty at my husband.

After my own second or third cup of coffee (consumed at this point not for enjoyment, but only as an effort to stay awake), I happened to notice that little “Cindy” was playing quietly at her mother’s feet on the other side of the table. I looked around and didn’t see M anywhere. With a quick look at the clock, I was astonished to discover that it was midnight! All was quiet from the girls’ bedroom area, so I assumed that M must’ve fallen asleep.

I said to the mom, “Looks like my girls have konked out for the night; I can’t believe your little gal is still going!”

She replied, “Oh, she’s a little night owl! She can get by with very little sleep.”


I got up and started clearing the last of the dessert dishes, hoping they’d take the hint.

They kept talking.

Finally, at 12:30, I excused myself to go and check on the girls. E was tucked in and sawing logs, right where I’d left her a couple of hours before. But, when I peeked into M’s room, she was not in her bed. She was not asleep on the floor. She wasn’t in the bathroom, or the closet, or her sister’s room. Nonchalantly, I walked past the dining room, where they were still going at it and checked the playroom. Nothing.

Heart beating at a much faster pace, I interrupted the never-ending party with the announcement that my child seemed to be missing. I tried to appear calm and certain that everything was fine, but, well, my CHILD WAS MISSING.

Thinking the couple would gather up their little darling and get the heck out of there so we could find our kid, you can imagine my surprise when the husband barked out search orders to the wife: “Honey, you take their bedroom; I’ll search the backyard.” He needn’t have bothered, however, because Hubs had already gone out the back door.

Between the four of us (and under the watchful eye of the little cherub), we searched what we thought was every square inch of our house and yard for our daughter. Hubs had even awakened his mother, in hopes that M had gone to her house to escape the never-sleeping three-year-old, with his mother assuming that we knew. Any ruse of my being calm was destroyed by this point. I was scared out of my mind.

As Hubs hung up with his mother and began dialing 911, the man announced that he had found her! We rushed to where he stood, a virtual stranger staring into our built-in laundry hamper. Truly, if I hadn’t been so frantic, I would’ve been mortified! I’m still not sure how we’d all missed it, but this is what we saw:

I was, at once, flooded with relief and confusion. There was my wonderful girl…sound asleep in the laundry hamper. What in the world?

About that time, little “Cindy” worked her way through the sea of grown-up legs and reached in to touch M.

“Finally found you! You’re it! Now it’s YOUR turn to count!”

Those people scooped up their little gal, laughed at her darling-ness, and finally, FINALLY, went home.

We scooped up our girl, too, knowing that this would be the stuff of family lore. A never-ending night, where through an unfinished game of hide and seek, we ended up airing our dirty laundry.

P.S. We didn’t end up hiring that man. I’ve often wondered if that little girl will enter a field where she’ll work the night shift!