There was an independent streak about her even then, and before then. After all, she was the one who once was adopted by a collie. He showed up in their yard most of the days the summer she was two and a half. Then they had lived at a different house far from the highway, on a dead end lane. The two of them would be contented in one another's company for extended amounts of time, oft times just sitting side by side on the grass with her hand gently stroking his fur. Then one day, when Mom glanced again to where they had been sitting, both were gone. From the screen door, she caught sight of her little girl following the collie deep into the neighboring filbert orchard to wherever the collie's real home was.
When the family moved, even though the collie couldn't move with them, the emerging independence of the young girl came along to the next home. The girl was a year older now and enjoyed playing on the swing set in the back yard. She loved climbing up on the slide, sometimes just sitting and enjoying the view from up high. Other times she found great satisfaction from standing on the footboards of the two-seated bench swing and alternating the weight of her body from one side to the other to propel it into motion. Sometimes when Mom looked out she would see her daughter singing to her heart's content as she enjoyed the to and fro of the swing. It seemed that her daughter could happily do that forever.
Today Mom was in a flurry of activity trying to finish up some chores and get dinner prepared before Dad arrived home from work. When Dad got home, Mom called for her daughter to come inside. Even though she didn't see her, she assumed she was nearby. After a few minutes she called her daughter's name again. No response.
Why she didn't respond to Mom's call to dinner is unknown. Perhaps all the voices - Mom's, Dad's, and neighbors' who started looking for her - may have scared her into thinking she was in trouble. It could be that to her it was a game - she hid and Mom was supposed to be the seeker - only Mom didn't even know that there was a game in play.
A forty-five miles-per-hour road was at the edge of the property in the front yard, so Mom's concern about where her daughter might be was reason for alarm. It would have been highly unlike her to have gone near the road, but there was always, what if. . .
Mom retraced her steps again, and this time saw a little bit of the girl's clothing sticking out from the edge of the crawl space leading to the dark spaces under the house. For some reason the board that normally would have hidden the opening wasn't in place that day, and childhood curiosity couldn't resist.
Upon seeing her daughter, she helped her get out and then gave her an embrace, happy to know she was safe. For that instant she was her baby again, but preschool years were approaching.