On the second floor of the S-Bahn, a high speed train, Andrea and I are silently enjoying the view. After a long day in Cologne learning how to handle new cultural shock from the program offered by US Immigration Services, the nearly absence of any sound was comforting. This smooth, quiet travel with a high-speed rail system simply whisks you around the country. The experience is calming and relaxing. Worn out by daily routine, the few passengers were asleep, surrendered to the train’s rhythm.
My thoughts were somewhere in the States, still trying to process the information received earlier. There was no anxiety at this point; I think my whole being was pretty numb. No questions came from Andrea, thankfully, for how do you explain something to the ten-year-old that you don’t comprehend yourself? Looking out the window, the world was flying by pretty quickly. Our journey was coming to an end. We slowly made our way down to the first level and found a spot near the door.
The train came to a soft stop on Mϋlheim’s Hauptbahnhof. The double glass door opened. Elbowing through the incoming crowd I briefly let go of Andrea’s hand as to face her and help her off the train. As I turned, the door closed in front of me and my sweet little girl was still behind it. The train was taking off with her swallowed in its huge metal belly.
My heart skipped for a second, my mind racing to find a solution. “Get off on the next station” I was mouthing the words while frantically swinging my arms in an effort to make her understand what I needed her to do. And then she was gone…
Andrea was a smart girl with common sense who rarely got into any trouble. Lately though she was testing my patience by forgetting to carry the house key with her. I might be out running errands when she gets home from school and what will she do then?
Since the next train was scheduled within ten minutes, as they always do – a perfect example of German organization and efficiency, I was confident that she will get off and wait for me in the nearby city. Pulling into this train station I was already looking for her long blonde locks, my face glued to the window. “Ok, I don’t see her yet but she must be there somewhere” I thought “you cannot easily spot a four-foot-tall in this sea of people.” As some travelers were already seated comfortably, ready for their new destination and others left the station in all directions, I realized that my child was not there. Now panicking, I ran to the Information booth and asked if they have seen my little girl. Thank heavens, they did! My smart girl walked up to the booth and told them what had happened. They put her on the next train back to our town. All I had to do is wait another 10 minutes for the next train.
The panic has left me and with joyful heart I almost skipped the five minute way from the train station to our house. I remembered that she didn’t have her key and I pictured her sitting at the door, waiting for me. “Maybe this will be the lesson she needs in order to remember the darn key” I told myself. But when I arrived, she was not there! “That doesn’t make any sense. She knows it was just matter of 15 minutes before I’ll be home, where would she go?”
I called her friends and mine, but no one has seen her. The sheer panic overcame me. What if she wasn’t able to get of that train either? What if they put her on the wrong train? What if, what if…?
My phone rang. “Hello, this is a railway attendant. Are you missing a child?”
My limbs felt like rubber. “Yes, where is she?” I shouted.
“We were notified that she was on the train and we were supposed to make sure someone is going to get her.”
Well, the German organization failed me this time, because they didn’t tell me she’ll be kept at the station. Running back I already forgave them eager to embrace my girl again. She was sitting comfortably between the two attendants in the Information booth, looking content. At my approaching, they started laughing. This confused me immensely. “What is so funny?” I asked.
“Is this your daughter?”
“Yes, that’s her” I answered still puzzled.
“Well,” they started “we asked her to describe you for security reasons and she told us that you’re old, wrinkled and with pimples on your red face” they couldn’t stop laughing “are you sure this is your mom honey?” I laughed too, relieved I found her and astonished that she described this beauty like a beast.
Any other time, my nearly thirty-year ego would’ve been hurt, but not this time. I finally got my girl safe and sound and it doesn’t matter how she perceives me. What matters is that there is only one pretty child in the world and every mother has it. Just never ever loosen your grip!