November was giving us her best that Sunday - a deep blue sky and still, brisk air warmed ever so slightly by a bright sun. My friend Ruth, Mother, and I had gone to the Sleeping Giant State Park in Hamden, Conn., to take a walk. Crisp brown leaves crunched underfoot as we hiked along. Halfway up the trail, Mother decided to turn back, assuring us she would find her way to the car and happily occupy herself until our return.
Ruth and I scuffled along to the head of the Giant. After taking in the view, we descended with the abandon that accompanies the gift of a glorious fall day. We turned right at the end of the trail and walked expectantly toward the car, where Mother had said she would be waiting for us.
When she wasn't there, I said to Ruth, "Mother has a way of making the most of every moment. She's probably exploring the pine grove over there. Mother?" I called. "Mother?" There was no response. "Motherrr?"
"Maybe she walked to the bridge we passed," Ruth suggested. That sounded logical, and I liked the calm tone of Ruth's voice. However, as we rounded the bend, we saw nothing but the empty bridge. "Let's retrace our steps to the beginning of the trail." Again Ruth stayed the panic I was beginning to feel.
The sun was setting, and the air was cooling. Considerable time passed as we followed all logical leads. Finally, on the verge of tears, I said to Ruth, "I think we'd better call the police."
We found the nearest house and rang the doorbell. A man answered the door. When we told him we'd lost Mother, he replied, "I knew it. She had on rust-colored slacks and a brown jacket, didn't she?" Without waiting for our confirmation, he continued, "I wondered why she was heading across that rock pile at the head of the Giant. I should have stopped her right then."
He was visibly agitated and insisted on jumping in his Jeep to look for Mother, apparently feeling personally responsible for her disappearance. He took off without us in search of her.
We had not yet enlisted the help of the police, and despite the confidence of our new friend that he would find Mother, we rang the doorbell of another house. After hearing our story, the woman graciously let us in, and I dialed the police station.
Trying to control the tremble in my voice, I said, "I've lost my mother on the Sleeping Giant. It's getting dark, and I'm worried. Can you help me?"
"Wait a minute, lady," the dispatcher said.
"Wait a minute!" I squeaked. "Wait a minute? I've been waiting for hours!"
Ignoring my wailing, he returned to the phone, saying, "I have someone on the other line who says she got lost on the Giant. She's at Ceri Bulbun's Dress Shop on Whitney Avenue now."
"That must be my mother," I cried out, tears of joy and relief running down my face. "Please, tell her I'll be right there."
Our car was parked some distance down the road, and we had almost reached it when the man in the Jeep drove up. He pulled over to see if we'd had any better success than he had. When we told him the good news, he was elated.
"Hop in," he said, motioning us to get in the Jeep. "We'll all go to pick up your mother." Ruth and I gratefully climbed in.
In about five minutes, we were reunited with Mother, who was sitting in the dress shop, red-faced with exertion and embarrassment, a glass of cold water in her hand. I hugged her tightly, thanked the saleslady, and escorted Mother to the Jeep. She sat up front with the proud driver. While Mother recounted her adventure (yes, she had turned left instead of right when she descended), our knight in shining armor took us to our car.
We drove home to a hot dinner. Sitting in front of the fireplace that night, Mother said to Ruth and me, "You'll never know how concerned I was for you two, looking everywhere for me. How could you ever find me, I thought, when even I didn't know where I was?"