*Went to the zoo with my kids and mom.

*Enjoyed the exhibits, especially “Nature’s Nightmares.”

*Just before choosing an eatery for lunch we decide to take a bathroom break.

*Yawlin, as the only boy, goes alone to the boys bathroom.  All the rest of us, except Hoob, go into the girls bathroom.

*Hoob moves to sit at a table to wait for us.

*Yawlin comes out of the bathroom, doesn’t see that Hoob has moved to a table, and assumes we all left him to go buy lunch.

*Yawlin decides to head to the zoo entrance as the logical place we would look for him once we have bought lunch.

*The rest of us come out of the girls bathroom and continue to look at the zoo map to decide which eatery has the food we most want to eat.

*After awhile we start to wonder what is taking Yawlin so long in the bathroom.

*I walk to the boys bathroom and call through the door for Yawlin.

*No answer.

*I open the door and see one stall and two urinals…and no Yawlin.

*I walk back to the others and tell them that Yawlin isn’t in the bathroom.  I ask Hoob if she saw him come out.  She says she wasn’t really watching.

*We all look in the immediate vicinity, but see no Yawlin.

*Because of a recent local news report about a little girl assaulted in a public restroom, slight panic starts to set in.

*We split up.  Huh and Hoob go together down one path.  My mom and Mack go down another.  I go alone down a third.  We all promise to call the others as soon as Yawlin is found.

*I walk the back perimeter of the zoo, where we hadn’t visited yet, just in case Yawlin decided to go see the new exhibits.  I don’t see Yawlin anywhere.  My phone doesn’t ring.

*I check eateries.  I check the reptile house.  I start down the path past the giraffe exhibit.  Still no Yawlin.  My phone is ominously silent.

*I make it back to the starting point.  My mom and Mack are there.  They report that they checked near the entrance of the zoo and saw no Yawlin.  I go recheck the bathroom.  Where could he be?

*By now other patrons of the zoo are aware that we are looking for a lost boy.  Some offer to help.

*Huh and Hoob appear and Huh reports that she jumped the fence into the worker’s parking lot near the bathroom because she didn’t like the looks of a guy that was hanging out near the bathroom and she’d seen him go through a locked gate near the bathroom.  She even started opening cars to look inside.

*We all split up again.  This time I head to the zoo entrance.  I want to see if Yawlin went out to the car when he couldn’t find us.

*As I walk I peer at all zoo patrons.  Where is my little boy?

*My phone rings.  It is my mom.  Relief.  She must have found him…

*My mom’s voice says, “Come back to the Carousel, we have security here and they are going to start looking for him.  They need a description.”

*My heart falls.  He is still missing.  “Just a minute,” I say.  “I want to make sure he didn’t go out to the car.”

*I keep my mom on the phone as I walk and mentally form a description…Gray sleeveless shirt, gray plaid shorts, black and white high-top sneakers with red shoelaces, sandy brown hair, a scraped elbow…I cannot believe I am having to form a description of my son!

*I start to jog, not caring what others are thinking.

*”I am almost to the entrance,” I say to my mom.  “As soon as I check the car I will come back to the carousel.”

*I spot the gift shop to my left.  Since it is on my way I decide to check inside.

*There stands Yawlin, watching a mechanical hamster roll around with a ball.

*Instant relief as I say into my phone, “I found him!”

*”You found him?”  my mom asks.  “Yes, I found him!”  I hang up the phone.

*I walk up to Yawlin, touch his shoulder, and fighting back tears I say, “We have been looking all over for you.”

*Yawlin turns, fights back his own tears and gives me a big hug.  We stand that way for a few minutes, not caring that others are staring.

It turns out that on his way to the zoo entrance to wait for us to find him, Yawlin decided to revisit some of the exhibits we had previously seen.  Hence the reason my mom and Mack had missed him on their walk to the entrance.

And so, what did we learn from this experience?  And what can we remind parents to do?

Here is what I have told Yawlin:  We would never leave him alone in a public place in order to go buy food; If he didn’t see any of us, he should have looked around a little closer, he would have seen Hoob sitting at the table (and yes, I have reminded my girls to never move from an original spot if they are the “meet-up person”); he should have stayed in the last place we had seen him instead of moving off on his own or he could have found a person in a uniform (security or other zoo worker) to tell them he was lost and they would have helped him find us; and I have pointed out to Yawlin how much his family must love him if we were willing to make fools of ourselves in trying to find him–to the point of jumping a fence and opening strangers’ cars, jogging through the zoo and peering at everyone we passed!

Yawlin has his own take on the whole thing.  In his words…”See, I need to have a cell phone!”

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