We went to the five and dime first, to buy Mom’s Christmas Present. Then we would go to the hardware store. My dad and my brother Walt, even at age six, were no strangers to hardware stores. The smell of a hardware store made their eyes glassy. At age three, Mel could see over enough counters and into enough glass cases to be mesmerized himself.
At the counter, as I paid for the gift, Walt asked if he and Mel could start for the hardware store. Dad said yes, and they went off, steps ahead of us. Dad and I left the dime store and went next door to the hardware store. Dad looked around briefly. No boys. He took my hand and we commenced an aisle by aisle search. No boys. Back to the dime store. Ask all the clerks. Other shoppers alerted. Up and down the sidewalks. I was hustled into the car and dad went home for help. Neighbors set out in cars to search. Neighbors came to stay at the house.
A couple of hours later, two little boys came in the back door. Very tired and very cold. Especially the three year old. As the searching neighbors checked in they were given the good news, and by midnight the cold, dark adventure was over. To be recalled in later years as the night the boys walked home from Temple Square.
The next summer we spent a weekend in St. Louis. Dad was at a convention there and mom drove the family down for the weekend and to bring dad home. We stayed at the Roosevelt Hotel. We went to the St. Louis Zoo.
You know what happened. We walked for miles and looked at everything. We were watching a sea lion performance when they went missing. First parents scan the near horizon. Then the far horizon. They snatch the hand of the remaining child and go into full search mode. Park authorities are notified. Mothers cannot remember if they put red T shirts or blue ones on children that morning. And, why has every mother in the park dressed her little boy in a colorful, striped T shirt! We walked more miles, accompanied by a zoo ranger.
Suddenly, in the sea of little boys, mom saw them! Sitting on an amphitheater bench, watching an elephant performance. They thanked the ranger and hauled me down the aisle. The boys looked up, then back at the elephants. We sat down behind them and waited for the show to end. At least, Mom said, they didn’t walk home.
1952. Mom and Dad. Me. Walt and Mel, who walked home last Christmas, but not this summer.