"Ma'am, there's a bit of a problem with your child," the attractive young woman informed me.
Oh maaaannnnn, I thought, and things were going so well today!
As I prepared to hear the news that was about to be delivered to me, my mind reviewed the events of our day so far...
After arriving home from Cole's football game around 11:00 pm the night before, we held fast to our plans to attend church near Cleveland, Ohio the next morning. Our goal was to be in the van by 8:00 am and arrive in time for the 11:15 worship service. Assembled in the driveway at 8:10, and feeling pretty good about ourselves, we delayed our departure from town with a quick stop for coffee. A bathroom stop half way to our destination caused us to be a bit more squeezed for time, but "Jane" the GPS assured us that we would arrive at the church with about 20 minutes to spare.
Twenty minutes would just barely be enough time to find a parking space, situate the youngest two kiddos into place, and find a seat in the large sanctuary filled with hundreds and hundreds of people. Happily, there was a parking space close to the building so we parked and hit the ground running.
As we entered the huge facility, we noticed lots of children in one wing and headed in that direction to deposit Kate and Molly. Time was ticking, so we split up, Darrin and Meg to place Kate, me to take Molly to the nursery. We placed Cole at the corner of the hallways to act as our meeting place. After one failed attempt to find the appropriate class for Molly, I was informed that she'd graduated into the room for "two-year-olds with last names between M and Z". Big place, lots of people and apparently, lots of two-year-olds.
When I entered the room, I told the lady who greeted me that Molly was potty training and that I needed to put a diaper on her (Molly not the nursery lady :-) so that the workers didn't have to deal with wet clothes. She asked me to fill out the check-in form and then told me that I could come behind the desk and change her in the bathroom. I quickly wrote Molly's name, checked the required boxes, and added, as had many other parents on the same list under the Special Instructions, "Potty Training". I took Molly to the bathroom, put her diaper on her, released her into the gang of 2s and slipped from the room quietly.
Back in the hallway, I met up with the rest of the gang. Darrin told me that Kate was in good hands and off we went down yet another hallway to the sanctuary. On the way, my mind returned to the sign in sheet and I said aloud, "You know, I don't think I wrote my name anywhere on that form, isn't it strange that they didn't have a blank for that? I checked a box that it was her first time here, but I'm sure my name isn't on that form."
"They did things different when we were checking Kate in upstairs, when I told them we were just visiting, she told me that I didn't have to fill in the extra papers. They do things differently for visitors I guess." And with that assurance, we found seats near the front and sat with relief in the pew.
The service was moving. The music was led by a talented guest musician from Australia, Nathan Tasker. The sermon was from the Old Testament about King Asa and was interesting, educational, and applicable. Our plan following the service was to divide, pick up the little girls, and meet in the church's bookstore/coffee shop before it closed for the day. Cole and I quickly found the nursery where I'd left Molly and hurried up to the counter to claim our gal.
"Ma'am, there's a bit of a problem with your child," said an attractive young woman. "You see, you didn't pick up the card you have to present to claim her when you dropped her off. I saw it laying on the counter after you left."
"I wondered about that," I said as things began to get clearer. It was at that moment that Molly spotted me and another worker began to lift her over the counter to me.
"Hang on, she can't have her yet," said the first woman to the other, to me she said, "You'll have to go get an elder before you can take her."
"I have pictures of her in my purse, if that will work," I said thinking of the hundreds of pictures on my iPod nestled inches from my twitching fingers.
"I'm so sorry," said the worker with a flailing screaming Molly in her arms, "it's for their protection."
"I understand," I said, "where do I find an elder?"
"They are usually standing out in the Commons Area, do you know where that is?" I reminded her that I was a visitor and that I wouldn't recognize any elders even if I could locate one. Realizing my dilemma, she called a teenaged girl over to aid me in my search. I left Cole in the nursery with a fit-throwing Molly to ease the mental anguish that would surely ensue when she saw me leave the room without her. The worker let Cole in to play with Molly and my teen-aged-taller-than-me side kick and I hurried from the room "going on an Elder Hunt"!
"Oh my," she said as we hurried back toward the sanctuary, "usually it's not this hard to pick up your child. I'm so sorry."
"It's really okay, I'd rather the kids be safe." I assured her as we approached a man sporting a tag on his lapel that read "Usher". She explained our problem and the usher said,
"You're gonna need an elder for that one. Follow me."
"Do they look different than you?" asked my helper.
Grinning, he nodded and introduced us to a man I hoped was an elder. The usher explained my problem to the elder who turned, introduced himself to me and then to the teenaged nursery worker whom he THOUGHT WAS MY DAUGHTER!
After we got all of the actors in the unfolding drama sorted out, we made our way en mass to the nursery. On the way I explained that we were visiting and that my husband was a pastor and that this was his last Sunday of sabbatical. Entering Molly's new home away from home, I was relieved not to hear her crying anymore and saw her and Cole playing on the floor. I showed the gentleman one of my pictures of Molly just as Molly herself began to yell,
"That's a pretty good identification," he said smiling and gave the nursery worker the OK. I lifted Molly onto my hip. Freshly "sprung", she hugged my neck tightly then let go when the man said, "Hi Molly!" She looked at him and grabbed his tie and said,
"Where's my Daddy?"
I told her we were meeting Daddy in the bookstore and to let go of the man's tie.
"Molly, tell this man 'thank you'." She remained silent as she looked him over once more and then leaned toward him and gave him a big hug around the neck. Laughing we all parted ways and I and my gang made a beeline to the bookstore and the rest of our gang.
We were nearly to the bookstore when we caught up with Darrin, Meg and Kate. "How'd you get along picking Kate up?" I asked Darrin.
"Just fine, I handed them my card and they sent her to me. The worker was so nice. She told me that Kate was the most polite little girl she's ever seen."
"Oh really," I said. "You didn't tell me before that they gave you a card to pick her up. You said visitors were different."
"No," he explained, "I said they didn't make me fill out all of the papers. How did Molly get along? It looks like she's been crying..."