So without really knowing how far they'd already gotten, or even which direction they were headed, I determined it would probably be best to just drive around the bend along the levee until I saw them, and then park there to catch up.
Which I did.
And they were already about 10 blocks away. And about ready to cross the street. All the duckies with their 3rd grade big buddies. Following the two teachers and the three parent volunteers. Not quite a single file, but close enough.
So, I pulled over right in front of a house, between two driveways, behind an Acura, and in front of a BMW. [A silly thing both my father and Amy have always had in common, that, apparently, has stuck with me, despite my floating through life with rose-colored glasses most of the time: Parking close to vehicles that are at least comparable to your own so that you decrease your chances of being vandalized by, evidently, banking on the fact that the Joneses will get theirs before you do, and away from the crowded spots in parking lots, so that you don't get dinged in parking lots.] Plus, it was a nice neighborhood in a town not really known for its crime rate. And the good weather meant there were a ton of people out and about, walking and cycling up and down the path. So, truthfully, I really wasn't all that concerned. Not here. Not today.
And as the teachers and parents prepared to block traffic to start herding the group across the intersection, I quickly grabbed my iPhone, my camera, and my sunglasses, and shoved my purse down into the passenger floorboard, covering my laptop that contained my beloved Mac.
Jumping out, I locked the vehicle, setting the alarm, and ran to catch up with the group just in time to help the last section of kids across the street.
For the next hour and 15 minutes or so, I took some gorgeous shots of the kids on their walk, skipping and holding hands, down by the water during low tide, collecting shells, and harassing hermit crabs.
On our way back to the school, coming down the same sidewalk along which I'd parked, I was already joking with their teacher about how I'd just meet them back at the school 'cause here was my ride, when we noticed one of the other teachers up at the front of the line herding the kids away from a pile of shattered glass on the sidewalk.
Right. By. My. Truck.
And I remember having that moment of embarrassment. That same one you feel when you trip or fall in public and try to recover by oh-so-unsuccessfully pretending that nothing happened, that you're alright, and that the busted tendon and the gaping wound on your knee are really just cosmetic. No, really, I'm alright. That wasn't me. That's not me. That's not mine.
And then I ran right up to the side door, obliterating whatever useful fingerprints there actually might have been, and peered inside what used to be the passenger side window, uncertain of what to expect, but certain that it could not be good.
And it was. And it wasn't.
The vehicle itself had not been tampered with. It was still drivable. And, except for the glass, appeared to be mostly unharmed.
And my Mac, my beautiful precious, was still hidden away, shivering from the trauma and still afraid to come out, but safely tucked away in her case, patiently awaiting the sound of my voice.
And I was instantly awash in relief.
Followed by reverberating waves of terror as I realized the reason that I could even see that my Mac was okay was because my purse was gone.
This purse! My brand new, less than two weeks old, Marc Ecco purse from Macy's that the kids picked out for me for Mother's Day.
With all its contents. With all of its contents. With all of its contents. And then I heard a slurping sound. And then my brain went into overload.
The kids came rushing up to me asking me what happened, and I tried in that distant voice, kind of half awake and half asleep, to tell them everything would be alright, my eyes darting left to right looking, searching, scouring, but Mama needed to call the police right away. And the rolodesk in my head began cataloguing...driver's license, insurance cards, two bank cards...And the teachers and parents came up to me, no one really certain what to do next, and I tried to find a way to tell everyone to just go away. Just. Go. Away. so that I could think again...At least two credit cards, two retail cards, a gas card...So that I could figure out what the hell I was supposed to do next...$20 in cash, my social security card, the kids' social security cards, for crissakes...And then somehow they did, and when I looked up, everyone was gone, except for one of the parents who had stayed behind to ask me if he should put the kids in aftercare so that I could take care of things...checkbooks, driving glasses, extra sunglasses, make-up, flash drive, baby pictures with Santa and the Easter Bunny...and I was nodding and shaking my head at the same time, as he shoved a wad of cash in my hand, saying something about vaccuuming out the truck up the street before we headed across the bridge and did I have enough gas to get home?
And then I was alone.
Standing in a puddle of green glass and certain, just absolutely positive that someone was going to come around the corner with my purse and say, we're really sorry, lady, we really needed the money, and we know it was stupid, but we can tell by the contents of your purse that you're really a wonderful person and an amazing mother, and there's just this code we have, you know, us criminals, that just won't allow us to do anything bad to good people, so here you go. And, you know, we're really sorry for the scare and all.
And then a friend drove by and pulled over to help, and I texted Amy, and the cops showed up as I was canceling my debit cards. But the three steely officers, all shiny and slick, muttered and puttered and essentially shrugged their shoulders in unison, "Tough shit, lady," I heard them say, but I'm sure it was something like, "Well, we have all your information now, ma'm. Please let us know if you think of anything else that may help. Here are some phone numbers to the victim's hotline, the DMV, the credit reporting agencies, and the social security administration."
And then I was alone again.