By Guest contributor Frances Silverglate Siegel
In my forties, I adopted a two-year-old boy, Sean.
When he was three, my husband and I took him on a trip to Israel. We spent most of our time in a small apartment near the beach in Tel Aviv.
We had to cross a major thoroughfare to get to the sand, and I would hold onto Sean’s hand very tightly, even when he tried to get loose—the traffic was scary.
Once there, I would set up my beach chair and watch Sean run in and out of the water in his bright red swim trunks. Eventually, after a few days of this, I began to read a book while watching him. He knew where I was and would often come back so I could dry his face with the towel if he got saltwater in his eyes.
But one day a big Israeli family put their beach chairs in front of mine and settled in. I still had some view of the water, so I thought Sean and I would still be able to see each other.
But the reality was that I couldn’t really see him, and he couldn’t see me. After a few minutes I admitted this to myself and got up and went to the water. But I couldn’t find him, and I panicked.
I ran to the lifeguard station. People on the beach started to help. Teenage boys snorkeled in the waves, looking under water. Some grown men ran off to the other beaches to look for him. The lifeguard called his name through a bullhorn.
I decided to stay where I was, in case Sean had wandered off and came back. An hour passed. It was late afternoon, and people began to pack up and leave. People who had gone to the other beaches to look for Sean on the other beaches returned to report no luck. I felt total despair.
Had he been abducted? Would I ever see him again? I feared he’d been dragged out into deep water and drowned. If so, how could I go on living? How could I go back to the apartment and tell my husband? And how would he ever look at me without remembering my failure?
Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I caught a speck of bright red. It was him.
An agnostic, I nevertheless thanked God for his return. I gathered him up, hugged and kissed him and pledged that I would never again ask for anything.
I knew I was the luckiest mother in the world. I gathered our things, and we slowly walked home. That evening, after dinner, when we joined what seemed to be nearly all of Tel Aviv in a nightly stroll-and-ice-cream ritual, I was continually intercepted by people who had been on the beach. They both congratulated me on finding Sean and admonished me to be more careful.
Sean is grown now, a young tree trunk of a man, kind and good. Every time I look into his eyes, I realize how blessed I am.
(Editor’s note: Frances Siegel is also the mother of WilmingtonFAVS contributor Robert Siegel.)