She held both of her daughters hands as they prepared to cross the busy road. Tightening her grip on their small fingers, she looked left…then right…and then in unspoken tandem they moved forward. Across the road they hustled quickly and then slowed their pace as the danger disappeared behind them and their leisurely walk could begin.
The road was quiet, only the sounds of the traffic behind them and a dog barking far-away filled the air. Releasing her daughter’s hands, she allowed then to skip forward and slowly lost herself in the evening sun’s waning strength upon her hair…her mind happily drifting from one thought to another as her girls chirped happily ahead.
Feeling a tug on her sweater she drifted back to reality as she looked down to see that her youngest was showing her something she had found along the side of the road. “Look mommy!” she exclaimed, ” so shiny…can I keep it?” The mother turned the metallic rectangle over in her hands…noticing that there was a name engraved on one side…contact names and numbers on the other. “Perhaps we should keep this” she told her daughters, “and maybe return it to the owner.” Her daughters were excited at the mystery of the boy’s name on the front and they began imagining all sorts of stories as to who the boy was…and how his tag was there on the side of the road.
Michelle tucked the tag into the pocket of her jeans…and went on with her life.
Autumn 2000 (ten years earlier)
The small boy watched as his mother attached the brand-new sliver tag to his coat…struggling to weave the strong metal zipper onto the stainless-steel ring that would connect the two. The boy stood still, excited to finally be able to wear the bright orange winter coat that his mama had purchased a few months before. It was not quite cold enough for the coat, but he wanted to wear it just the same…and the tag with his name on it only made it all seem so much cooler. “Now listen, young man…if you ever need someone to call mommy or daddy our names and numbers are on the back of this tag” she told him as she patted his shoulder and stood. “I know Mama, and it has my name on it too” he reminded her proudly. “Want me to spell my name for you again” he asked…and she smiled as she listened to him repeat those familiar letters for the hundreth time. Together, they drove to pre-school…
“Late again” she thought to herself as she hurried to find a coat to wear. She reminded everyone to grab their coats as she searched through the closet for one to wear herself. “There it is” she thought and quickly zipped it up as they all ran out of the door. As the girls all hurried into the van, she reached into her pocket to see if she had a spare pair of gloves tucked inside and yelped as the underside of her fingernail was pierced by something sharp. “What on Earth!” she muttered as she pulled the object from her pocket and looked at it in the sunlight “That tag again…how on Earth did you get into this coat pocket?” then quickly tucked it back into her coat and walked out the door.
Later, during a quiet moment Michelle remembered the tag and again removed it from her coat. She had never tried to call any of the numbers on the back…life had simply become too busy, and what value did it really have anyway? Not like her husband’s wallet that had disappeared years ago and not a single idea of what had ever happened to it, despite the fact that there were numerous contact cards inside that could have allowed the person who found it to return it easily to its owner. She turned the tag over in her hands and stopped as she read the words. “My mommy is Mindy” it read “My Daddy is Mark.”
She quickly flipped it over again and read the name, printed much larger on the front…”Connor”
Her arms broke out in goosebumps…how could it be? Could this tag really belong to the “Mindy” that she knew? She knew that Mindy’s husband was, indeed, named Mark. She had never met their oldest son but from conversations she was almost 100% certain that his name was Connor. But how on Earth could that tag have found its way to that quiet road so many miles away? How did it even get into her coat to begin with? She knew that when her daughters found it, many months ago, she was wearing a sweater…not the coat that she had on today.
“It must mean something” she thought, “There is no such thing as coincidence.”
March 10, 2010
Michelle was excited for today’s therapy session. She entered the home and removed her shoes, quickly cleaned her hands, like always, with sanitizer and reached down for Corrigan. With her one arm holding him firmly on her hip, she took her other hand and reached into her pocket…she felt the little metal piece and pulled it out…slowly reached across the livingroom to Mindy’s hand and gave her the tag.
Confusion spread across Mindy’s face…she instantly recognized the tag. She had engraved it herself a decade earlier. She looked up at Michelle and simply said, “What?” and continued to flip it over in her palm. Michelle sat and told her the story…of how her daughters had found the tag so many months ago, how she had meant to call the number…how it had startled her, months later, to suddenly recognize the names…and Mindy stood amazed.
How had it made it to that road? She didn’t recall ever losing it to begin with, nor the identical tag that she had made, ten years earlier, for Connor’s bookbag as well. It was his first month of preschool…she was a first-time mom…she wanted as many safeguards on him as possible in case he wandered off.
The tag was in perfect condition…though the number engraved was no longer a number that would reach Mommy or Daddy. That year that Connor went to preschool was the last year at that number…they had been at their current location, with a different phone number, for nearly ten years.
How could it have been roadside, slightly buried in gravel, exposed to the elements for that amount of time? Had it only recently arrived there? Where had it been all of these years?
But more importantly, she had the exact same thought that Michelle had the weekend before, “What did it mean?”
In a county of over 72,000 people….in a location at nearly the other end of the county border….on a road not often travelled by anyone other than the few people that lived there…had it found its way into the hands of the woman that, only a few days after the little girls found the tag on that evening Autumn walk, would come into her home and introduce herself…”Hello, I am Michelle, I am here for Mr. Corrigan”
Both women stood, smiles on their faces and goosebumps on their arms looking at that simple little tag…a whispered, “unbelievable” and then silence.
Later, after therapy was over, Mindy sat and read the session notes and thought about how much has been accomplished since Ms. Michelle has walked through her front door. Corrigan’s progress has been quick and wonderful…his love for Michelle evident in the way that he squeals and then pulls on her to hold him the moment that she walks in the door. How apparent it is that Ms. Michelle cares for Corrigan, how she lights up when he succeeds…in the gentle way that she holds him…in the way that she lets him crawl all over her, pulling at her hair accidentally and pretending to “eat” the variety of toys that Corrigan attempts to “feed” her during their sessions.
Well maybe the only thing that the tag means is that it was meant to be. An affirmation, in the strangest sense, that Ms. Michelle was meant to be a part of their “family”.
Today, they learned that the county is the only county in the State (and one of only two states in the country) that is beginning a new program. Early Intervention usually ends at age 3. The county has received a grant that will now allow for “extended early intervention” for certain children…that will carry them along, for 12 months out of the year, from initial meeting until they walk into the doors of Kindergarten. Today they learned that Ms. Michelle was going to be Corrigan’s girl for a long…long…time.
I think that the tag, and its very strange story, means that Ms. Michelle is exactly where she should be.
and we couldn’t be happier.