West Seattle was blanketed by a thick, fresh snowfall in December. It was beautiful; definitely a day to tug on boots and enjoy a walk in our neighborhood — such an uplift from the omnicron buzz.
I hear a robin trill and find her perched on the snowy branch of a tree and take her picture.
Hamilton View Park is my destination. The Park overlooks Elliot Bay and has a hill where kids like to take their sleds and saucers to have a merry time in the snow. Just as I am about to cross the street towards the Park, a child approaches. She is alone and crying.
“Can you help me?” she says.
“What’s wrong?” I ask.
“I’m lost. I don’t know where my home is.”
“Alright. Be calm, dear. What’s your name?”
“How far have you been walking?”
“I don’t know. I left the house because I wanted to play in the snow. I asked my brother to come with me, but he didn’t want to. He’s autistic.”
“Were you with the kids at the park?”
She shakes her head “No.”
“How far do you think you are from your home?”
“I don’t know. My Mom lives near the water. But I don’t live with her.”
My mind processes the situation. We are in a snowstorm in the midst of a pandemic. Snow reshapes things. Is the kid lost and confused because of the snow? Or maybe covid has added to her confusion? It has certainly added to mine. I want to help, but how?
“OK, Rosemary. Just be calm. Walk with me.”
We walk in silence. My brain is processing: This girl is surely old enough to know where home is. But when I ask, she does not know her address or her phone number. I size her up. She looks to be maybe eight years old. She is bundled in pink and lavender layers and looks cared for. Her blonde hair drapes over a fluffy scarf. I wonder about her home life.
I think of the robin on the tree branch whose picture I took. An old song from my childhood arose: The North Wind Will Blow And We Shall Have Snow and Where Will Poor Robin Go? I feel I am walking with a lost, little bird.
At first, I think about taking Rosemary home. That would not work; we would be no closer to finding her home. Then I have an idea: the fire department. I remember walking past Station #29 after taking the photo of the robin.
“I know what we’ll do, Rosemary,” I tell her. “The fire department is a few blocks away. We’ll go there.”
She nods, calms down.
We ring the bell at the firestation. I explain to the three firefighters there that the girl is lost. “Where did you find her?” one of them asks. I give him an approximate location.
Then a female firefighter asks Rosemary: “Are your feet cold? Do you need socks? Want some water?”
All the firemen try and make her feel comfortable.
Then one asks “What’s your last name?” Rosemary tells him and he taps the information into his cell phone.
“Is your mother an attorney?”
“Yes,” the girl says.
I am amazed by mankind’s ability to collect so much data so fast by simply consulting a smartphone.
Rosemary then explains that her parents are divorced and she lives with her father. She says her Mother lives near the water somewhere.
“You mean Alki Beach?”
The firefighters discuss how they will handle the situation and end up agreeing that Rosemary’s status as a missing child needs to be addressed by the police.
“They will drive you around, Rosemary. They will help find your home.”
At dinner, I tell the story to my husband. We come up scenarios about the divorced parents, the autistic brother, the police showing up at the door with the lost girl, the parents blaming each other for this incident.
And when my head hits the pillow to sleep, the old song is there: The North Wind Will Blow And We Shall Have Snow and Where Will Poor Robin Go?