Afterward my heart was racing but as it happened I just stood there quietly observing. Wondering what would happen, not totally convinced I should be freaking out but not sure how else to respond.
I was watching Isabelle standing at the bus stop about 50 feet from our front door. She was playing in the puddles on the sidewalk. Actually I must not have been watching her but the traffic going by instead because I watched an old man in a hat come around the corner, turn his head to notice my daughter and pull over on the opposite side of the road.
We live in a safe reputable neighborhood but on a busy road. Not crazy busy but it is a main road for our neighborhood, for getting to the jr high and high school and for a few people who cut through the neighborhood on their way to work. I can recall in years past driving down the road and seeing a little boy waiting for the bus or getting off the bus on this busy road with no parent in sight and thinking how unsafe that was. I would never let my child stand on this busy road alone I smugly thought to myself. But then reality comes and mornings are busy and your child has more enthusiasm to get out and stand in the wet slushy world than you do. I am watching with the door open. And in retrospect, that mom probably was too.
So when he pulled over I initially thought he was just worried about a little girl standing alone on the side of a busy road. He was an old man after all. I pushed open the storm door so that he could see I was there. I watched as he sat for a moment in his car seeming to do nothing. My husband was still home and I mentioned the activity to him as well. There we both stood looking at the car while holding open the door as his car door started to open and then immediately closed. Now my husband is getting on his shoes and I am reaching behind me to do the same. Then I look up and the bus has come. I watch my totally oblivious daughter safely board the bus and moments after the bus pulls away the man drives off in the opposite direction.
My husband and I are stunned. What do you make of that near encounter?
As my mind started clearing I wished I had called Isabelle to come back up by the house. In the frigid cold weather she stands either in the house or on the front stoop and runs out when the bus comes but the warm weather and puddles were calling this morning. Nothing happened and I am coulda, woulda, shouldaing. I can't imagine how much second guessing goes on in a person when something actually does happen.
I left for an appointment but my husband decided to call the police and just give a heads up. They decided to send an officer out to our house to talk with him. Amazingly enough, another cop was driving the area and found the old man in the white VW wearing the English driving hat. He lives a few blocks away. Yes, he said he was the one. He had simply pulled over, as was my first instinct, because he was concerned for a little girl on the side of the road. The cops said they tended to believe he was telling the truth but put him in the system. Frankly, I tend to believe him too.
It is sad that we live in a world where so many sick, sad, desperate things happen that I can't let my daughter stand unsupervised in my own neighborhood in my own front yard. Yet I know I can't which is why I was watching. It is sad that an old man just trying to be friendly ends up in the "system" and suspect should anything ever actually happen in the neighborhood. And it is sad that we jump to the conclusions we do when someone is just trying to help, but we have to. Because while most of the time the situation is innocent the other option is unthinkable.
Tomorrow I will be standing in those puddles with her.