I sit up in bed in a panic. The digital clock reads 1:20 a.m, and when I open the bedroom blind, the porch light casts a bright light across the front lawn revealing an empty driveway. Ella, my 18 year-old daughter, has not returned home from a late night dinner with friends.
An hour earlier, I had texted her, requesting that she check in and plan to come home. The thing about my daughter is that she is never far from her phone and checks her social media continuously, so when I wake to find her not home from dinner, my concern turns to panic: My earlier text messages had gone unanswered.
I wake my husband, but he does not express much concern about the absence of our daughter and instead insists that she is probably with her friends playing board games and not paying attention to her phone. According to him, Ella is safe. Then, he rolls back over and falls into a deep sleep.
I, however, rise from bed, walk into the kitchen and check my Find my Friends phone app which shows Ella near a large Baptist church about two miles from where she supposedly ate dinner with friends. The orange circle places her on a street I don’t recognize as her friends’ home addresses. My fear meter rises to the irrational level.
My theory of the danger Ella faces goes something like this: Ella is abducted as she walks to her car after dinner; her kidnapper forces her into his car and then drives off in the direction of the Baptist church, stopping to toss her phone into the parking lot dumpster to eliminate any tracking possibilities.
Unreasonable, I know, but when cortisol starts coursing through my veins, unsettling scenarios like this play vividly in my mama bear mind. I send a new, more urgent text.
I’ll give you until 1:45 a.m. and then I’ll come looking for you. I’m worried.
Salvation! A few minutes later, the text ellipses begins blinking. Ella is typing her response. Relief washes over me.
I wasn’t with my phone.
Coming home now.
I was at Kevin’s house with Mollie, Brooke and Kristen.
I sigh, thankful my daughter is alive and well. I quietly creep back into the bedroom and slip into bed just as the front door opens. Ella turns off the porch light, locks the door and walks up the stairs to find me.
“Mom, I’m sorry I made you worry. We were busy playing a game and I wasn’t paying attention to my phone,” she explains softly.
After a quick hug, my heart calms. Ella leaves for her room, unaware of the dangerous perils she faced in my imagination just a few minutes earlier. For now, there is no need to explain my nightmares to her. If and when she becomes a mother, she will experience her own worst case scenario thinking, a symptom of a mother’s love for her child.
I turn away from the clock, close my eyes, and whisper to my husband, “Ella is home. You were right. Everything is okay.”