finders, keepers

What do you think it would be like, I am asked, to be found?

What a question to ask, to consider. In the act of being found, there is the suggestion, is there not, that you are not where you are supposed to be.

If you are found, maybe you were lost.

If you are found, maybe you will be taken back.

Once as a child, I got separated from my mother in a crowd. I don’t remember where, exactly, but we were packed tightly, and there wasn’t much room to move around. I was holding her hand, and then I was not. I was moved along in the crush of bodies and I remember reaching out a bit blindly. I saw the yellow sleeve of a shirt. I remembered my mother to be wearing yellow and so, I made my way toward that. I grabbed at the arm in the yellow sleeve. I held it, brought it to my cheek, kissed it, clutched it. I felt the arm stiffen, pull away. I looked up and it was not my mother.

Can you be found if you don’t know that you are lost?

I am thinking still about the birthparent search and my own long resistance to it. Perhaps it is this: I don’t want to search. I want only to be found. I will stay here, you come find me. A children’s game. Here I am. Discover me.

Close your eyes. Count to 10. Find me.

There is the danger, of course, of not being compelling enough a subject to be sought, found. I watch my son play with his friend in the park. They lean against a tree to count, and hide in bushes, squat down behind low stone walls. After a while, inevitably, one of them will lose interest after several rounds of hiding, seeking and hiding again. One will count, begin searching then be distracted by a bird, or a tricycle, or a pile of sticks. And the other one, in time, will come bursting out of his hiding place, eyes wide and wet, on the verge of tears: Why didn’t you come find me?

To find requires intense curiosity, interest. Single-mindedness of purpose. Focus. To find requires dedication. An urgency. A kind of love.

Many years ago, shortly after my divorce: I had just taken Z. to spend the month with her father in New York, as per the terms of our agreement. I had never before been separated from her for this long.

It was summer. The heat was oppressive. It was difficult to sleep. All the windows were open wide. In the middle of the night, M. and I were awoken by the sound of a baby crying. We sat up in a panic. The crying – heart-wrenching, relentless – went on for a long time. We got up, put on our shoes. We walked outside in the dark night, trying to follow the sound. Our searching was so cautious, so tentative: we did not know that we wanted to find what we thought we might. I thought the worst: Trash can. Dumpster. In a basket on someone’s front porch with a note. Our hearts raced. We will find you, I called out silently to this child. I will find you.

After a time, we called the police. The baby was safe in his home with two weary parents who were desperate for sleep.

I went back to bed, shaken, bereft. I stayed awake for what seemed like a very long time.

Back in the park, there is that wonderful moment of discovery. My son’s friend, alerted by the sound of muffled giggles, will peek around a tree, and then my son will pop out. You found me! They embrace briefly, awkwardly, shuffling into each other, all limbs. And then, they will do it again, the roles reversed.

There is that kind of being found: You know that you are being sought. You can leave clues. You can peek out to check that the searcher is still there. Wave your arm a bit. Let him see your sleeve.

I think there is another kind of finding, of being found. You don’t know what you are looking for. You don’t know that you are being sought. A kind of stumbling into. Falling in love, I think, can be a little like this.

Finders, keepers.