My Dad’s building is set so that each elevator only goes to two apartments on each floor, opening right into the private entry for each (the front door opens for one; the back for the other).
The other day Son got into the elevator at my Dad’s floor before me as I stopped to briefly adjust a table in his entry way. I’d told him not to go onto the elevator, but in true four-year-old fashion he did anyway. The elevator doors started to close and I saw that he’d gone into the elevator. I pushed frantically at the button to open the door as my son screamed in fear, but the door stayed closed and the elevator started to descend. I called out to my sister and ran down eight flights on the emergency stairs while my sister waited for the next elevator. She got to him first (the emergency stairs led outside and I screamed my way past security to get back into the building) but he was inconsolable until I took him in my arms.
His safety wasn’t really in question – the security in the building is quite fierce – but he was so very scared, poor bug. And it’s his fear that had me crying and left a heaviness in my heart that has yet to go away.
I feel like the worst Mom ever. And it brought back memories of a similar incident when I was four and my sixteen-year-old babysitter/cousin left me alone in the apartment while he went out and bought cigarettes. I woke up, was scared to death and wound up talking to the operator until he came back. I don’t remember most of my childhood, but this memory is as crystal clear as if it had happened yesterday.
Son’s talked about this every day since, but entered the elevator again without fear, his hand clasped firmly in mine. I wonder if this will be a memory he carries with him forever, the way I carry mine. If he does I hope he remembers how it ended. In my arms, safe and sound.