Wednesday was Canada Day here in the North, when we celebrate the anniversary of Confederation, the founding of our country. (A mere one hundred forty-two years ago. We are a baby country.) Like many urban Canadians, we headed to the woods... and the mosquitoes and the blackflies and the horseflies and the deerflies. Sounds like heaven, no?
In fact, it was. The insect life was not too outrageous, the lake was beautiful, the surroundings idyllic, the peace undisturbed. Lovely. Stephen and I took "relaxed" to a whole new level, and the dog? She was in Fuzzy Canine Paradise.
And the teens, you ask? Fifteen-year-old Rebekah and sixteen-year-old Aisling? (Isn't it pretty? An Irish name, pronounced 'Ash-LEEN'.)
Stephen and I several long discussions about this. Would we turn down the invitation? Would one of us stay home? Would we just cheerfully pull rank -- "Guess what, girls? We're going to a cottage for Canada Day!!" Or would we give them a choice? Their decision wasn't a totally foregone conclusion, at least for Rebekah, who quite likes cottages, but, if we gave them the choice, we had to be ready to allow them to stay home. Alone.
Though we've left Rebekah and her siblings alone for that long before (it would be about 36 hours), Aisling is new to the family mix. She's only been with our family a little over a week. Is she trustworthy?
The only way we would find that out, we decided, was to try. It was only 36 hours, we were less than an hour away, and though there's no cell phone reception, there is a phone. We would alert certain neighbours, to stand by as backup for emergencies, and give the girl a chance to prove herself. For good or ill.
We presented the possibilities, and let the girls talk about it. Faced with a choice between this
They opted for the latter. We weren't really surprised.
"If it just wasn't Canada Day, mum!" Rebekah said. With sincerity. Aisling, for her part, was fervently relieved not to have to leave the city. Turns out cottages are not her thing, even plumbing-and-electricity equipped cottages less than an hour out of town. Cottages have all that... nature... everywhere. And (gasp!!) no cell phone reception. What is life without texting?
So. The girls would be staying alone in the house. They laid out their plans for the day. We laid down certain ground rules.
- You may not invite anyone into the house.
- You must call when you're in each night.
- If your plans change, you must call.
- I will be calling your cell phones at intervals to check in. You must pick up.
And then we left. And you know what? I didn't even worry.
Thursday morning, 7:15, we arrive back, dump our stuff in the living room. The place is untidy, but not outrageously so. It's been lived in by two adolescent girls. It has not been partied in by multitudes.
In her basement bedroom...
Aisling is sleeping.
Upstairs, In Rebekah's bedroom...
The bed is empty.
Deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep breath. THAT I wasn't expecting. Aisling, now? Though she's been Rebekah's friend for a while, and have formed a good opinion of the girl, that is not the same thing as living under the same roof. For that, she's still mostly an unknown commodity. I don't know what her home patterns were like... well, I know that "patterns" is the wrong word to use. It's abundantly clear that patterns and stability were not features of her home, poor kid. So. Though we like her enough to take her in, we do have eight teens between us and over a decade of teen-parenting experience under our belts. We're not naive.
I wasn't 100% sure whether I'd see Aisling's snoozing form in her bed. But Rebekah? I was sure she'd be there! SURE. I'm not panicking yet, but obviously we have to find the girl, and fast. I only hope she hears her cell to pick it up.
She picks up on the first ring.
Obviously woken by the phone. (GOOD. Little cretin, scaring me like that. She deserves a rude awakening. But I keep my voice calm. Mostly.)
"Where ARE you?"
"Mutter, murmle, gftuszysdx."
"I'm in your bed."
My bed? Seems my mattress is more comfortable than hers.
My bed. She's sleeping in my bed.
I think my sigh of relief wafted the curtains in the neighbour's house across the street.
So, there you go. Stephen and I left the girls alone for 36 hours... and I've only gained one-half of one grey hair as a result.