As mom to two tweens, an afternoon at the park is not what it used to be. Rather than chase after them, fearing for their safety on the tall slides and monkey bars or play alongside them on the basketball court, they are content to stick with their friends while I walk the large track that encircles the park.
Did I say content? My 12-year-old might possibly die of embarrassment mid-court if I excitedly joined in his game. So I keep my distance, but I still keep an eye on what's going on. I scan the park making mental notes about who is playing where and with whom.
The other day I found it odd when a middle-aged gentleman showed up at the park with a remote-controlled airplane. It wasn't some flimsy store model, it was clearly the kind that belonged to a serious hobbyist. Still, I wondered why he had chosen to fly it in a field so close to playground teeming with children. Was he trying to lure them in Pied Piper style?
It flashed before me in an instant. The delighted little ones would gather round watching with wonder as the plane dove and swooped through the air.
"You want to try to fly it?" He'd ask.
A brave boy would take up his offer. And to the unsuspecting eye they'd soon look like father and son with the man practically hugging the child as they manipulated the controls together.
When it was time to go the boy would help the man pack up the plane, be coaxed into the car and the child would never be seen again.
This all whizzed through my mind, but when my eyes led me the man's car, I saw it was a Prius and the whole image kinda fell apart. Would a pedophile drive a Prius? It seemed an unlikely scenario to me.
Even so, as I walked by the man's eco-chic auto in the parking lot, I snapped a shot of his license plate...just in case.
Originally published in April 2010 at the old Chicago Moms Blog. In recent weeks there's been a spate of suspected potential abductions serious enough to involve local police and school officials.