You’re running out the door, feeling uncommonly collected. You’ve managed to get everyone fed, dressed, and on their way to the car – each child marching in two matching shoes – with plenty of time to spare before your designated appointment time. You. Got. This. Only thing left to do is to make sure the trophy company spells your name right.
And then you see it: an empty hook where your car keys usually dangle. Your heart sinks.
Where are the keys? you beckon to the universe, fishing through your overstuffed bag. Hm, there’s a princess and some old crackers, that pen you thought you lost at the grocery store, a diaper that’s now two sizes too small for the baby, but NO KEYS.
Your eyes dart around the room, suspicious and determined. Did they fall on the floor? Are they in your hand? Did you mistakenly set them on the table when you came home last night? Nope, nope, nope.
“Hey, you guys?” you call to your children. “Have you seen my keys?”
The big one feigns muteness. The little one answers, “Yeah!”
You’ll play along. “‘Kaaaay. Where are they, sweetheart?”
“On the table!”
“Nope, I can see that they’re not on the table. Do you really know where they are?”
She replies with a giggle, “Yeah!”
“And they are…?” Could this be it? Maybe she knows!
She looks to her left, where her hand rests on the table. “On … the table!” Dammit! Fool me twice, tiny dancer!
You start tearing through couch cushions, finding your husband’s lost work drive you paid to replace two months ago. You find three socks, another princess (this one wrapped in a Band-Aid), and $0.29. Your hand recoils when you reach in and hit the mother lode of crumbs, many of which are now stuck to your fingertips. Time to move on.
The clock catches your eye and you realize it is now the exact time you were supposed to be where you were going.
You check the diaper box and find it’s full of picture books and some crumpled Kleenex. Perplexing, but no keys.
Ah yes, the pirate ship that belongs in the tub but is now sitting in the living room full of crayons – an obvious choice for lost keys. And yet, no keys.
You rifle through the junk drawer, the baby purses, the refrigerator, and that little hole on the side of the TV speakers – to no avail. Even the pantry, where you found a tiny Baby Jesus last spring, is full of only food and an errant container of Play-Doh.
Frustration builds as you begin to suspect these keys were not simply misplaced but hidden. Looking the children in the eyes and menacingly reminding them that this search is wasting their play time, you interrogate them under the searing light of Snowglobe Elsa. “WHERE ARE THE KEYS?” Your furrowed brow is met with a shoulder shrug and … was that a smile? A SMILE?
You are now 30 minutes late, and it’s time to bring this search party upstairs.
Blankets and sheets are torn off the beds and shaken out. Hampers are emptied. A full arm’s length is reached under every bed with a wide swooping motion. Hallelujah! There’s the mouth guard you lost last week! Can’t imagine where you got that TEETH-GRINDNG PROBLEM.
No garbage can is left unturned. No shoe is safe from the violating reach of your hand into its toe-cavity. No keys are found.
The clock ticks and you’re starting to sweat. “Do you understand that we can’t leave until we find those keys?” you sob to the children, ready to bargain your hidden stash of Teddy Grahams.
“That’s sad,” the big one replies. “If you don’t take care of your things, you lose them!” Rage bubbles in your chest at the sound of your 3-year-old using your words against you. TO THE GARAGE!
The red wagon o’ crap is systematically emptied, the front yard is scoured. You peek in the car windows to make sure you didn’t leave them in the ignition … again. Still nothing.
You have now lost the will to go on. You fall in a dejected heap at the foot of the hall closet by the front door, resigning yourself to the unavoidable reality of at-home crafts and car dealership fees in your future. “Guess that’s it, guys. Can’t go out,” you sigh, heavy with self-pity and the unmistakable honey scent of a certain bear-shaped cookie. You are now two hours late as you remove all the shoes you once so confidently put on everyone, tossing them into the closet.
Your pulse quickens as you rummage through the scarves and bottles of bubble soap. Your eye catches the fleeting glare of something metal in the very far back, waaayyy back to where the sun don’t usually shine. You reach back and – there they are! The keys! They’re UNDERNEATH. THE. FREAKING. VACUUM.
You spin to glare into the soul of your impish son. “What were you thinking? Hide it under the appliance I’m least likely to move today??” A scene flashes before you in which you drive the newfound keys directly into your own corneas.
He smiles. “It’s time to go to the park, Mommy. We’re late!”
Your expression drops and you mumble in agreement, your left eye twitching. On your way to the car, you slip a Spiderman figurine into your pocket. “Yep. Time to play!”