I've never been a fan of big crowds, something I blame primarily on the fact that I'm not terribly tall. (My face ends up at arm-pit level when standing next to most adults.) And since losing my right eye last winter, I've become even less comfortable navigating huge swarms of people.
So when my brother-in-law called and said he wanted to bring his young family to "the big city"* to take in the annual Malmö Festival on Monday night, I was more than a little anxious about how it would go. Our nephew is four and can occasionally be resistive to following directions, while our niece just turned two and luckily was willing to be buckled into a stoller for a good chunk of the evening. With the somewhat comforting ratio of two adults per child (but idiotically, ZERO umbrellas) we headed for the city center.
After taking the youngsters on a couple of the kiddie rides set up on Stortorget (and getting rained on in the process, naturally) we set about choosing what to have for dinner from among the bazillion local restaurants represented at the festival. This decision was based on a couple of issues: 1) Would the kids eat it? and B) How long was the line to get it? And of course the length of the line had to be calculated against the availability of temporary picnic table seating set up nearby, which is always in short supply and very cramped at these kinds of events.
We settled on cajun-grilled chicken and crispy fried potato wedges with garlic-lime sauce (a personal Festival Favorite) and Magnus and I stood in the queue while my sister-in-law and Dr. Darling scouted seating with the little ones. Miraculously, they scored a table that would accommodate all six of us as long as we were willing to share it with two uniformed cops sitting on one end. Sweet!
But as I arrived at the table juggling multiple plates of chicken and spuds, my nephew was balking at the prospect of sitting next to one of the officers, which is really odd considering that his grandfather is a cop. I quickly volunteered to take his place (we had to move fast or risk losing the seats), and immediately struck up a conversation with them…hoping to demonstrate to my nephew that police officers who don't happen to be "farfar"** are still our friends.
And evidently while this was going on, my niece was unbuckled from the stroller so she could take her place on the other side of the picnic table, except that whoever turned her loose did not actually sit her cute little butt down on the bench, and not one of us saw her walk away.
Fortunately, her father (who is very tall) eventually spotted her in the teeming throng not more than 10 yards away from the stroller, but in the interminable 90 seconds that we didn't know where she was, our new best friends at the end of the table were on their feet and their police radios notifying nearby officers to be on the look-out for a tiny blonde-headed, blue-eyed girl wandering around on her own and clearly in need of cajun-grilled chicken with garlic-lime sauce.
Once assured that the police weren't going to charge any of us with reckless endangerment, we were able to relax and enjoy the rest of the evening. (In fact, the cops were great, and were especially empathetic toward the shaken parents.) Still, I don't think my hyper-responsible Swede will ever completely get over the embarrassment of losing a kid in the presence of law enforcement, and has made me promise to NEVER mention the incident to farfar. ;^D
*Malmö is Sweden's 3rd largest city after Stockholm and Gothenburg
** Swedish for paternal grandfather, literally "father's father"