It is summertime, and while Houston is always hotter than blazes, this July has been exceptionally awful. Oh, my word, it is unbelievably hot.
Growing up in Houston leads to many summertime traditions: free performances at Miller Outdoor Theater, Fourth of July fireworks over downtown, day trips to Galveston. And another tragic tradition: children dying. Twenty children have drowned this summer. So far.
I haven't heard any reports yet of little ones dying after being accidentally left in cars, which is another sad Houston sign of summer.
Sometimes the children climb in the cars themselves, and lose their lives as the car becomes an oven in the 102 degree sun. That happened to two little boys last summer. I always used to wonder how a child could get into a car, then be gone long enough to die from the heat. I couldn't grasp how a responsible parent, a good mom, could not notice the child was missing.
Till it happened to me.
The summer after Ingram was born, Eva Rose was two, nearly three. Ike was tiny and still slept soundly enough to take his naps in a cradle in the dining room. I was upstairs sorting through baby boy hand-me-downs, and my mom was downstairs where the children were playing.
I came down to retrieve a box from the garage. Eva Rose followed me outside, then back in, and I went upstairs and got back to work.
And then, apparently, she slipped back outside.
After ten or twelve minutes, Ingram began to cry. I kept working, knowing my mom would take care of him. He needed to sleep longer and he shouldn't have been hungry, so maybe he just needed a paci pop-in.
His cries got worse. And worse. Soon he was inconsolable and I could hear his screams loudly from the second floor. Everything my mom was doing to comfort him was futile. I set aside my stacks of clothes and my Sharpie came down to see what the problem was.
There was nothing obviously wrong with him, he was just having one of those mysterious newborn fits. I looked around. "Where's Eva Rose?" I asked my mom. "I thought she was with you," was her reply. "No, she never was with me. I thought she was with you."
In a millisecond my mom an I exchanged That Look. Poor tiny screaming Ingram was laid unceremoniously on the rug and Mom and I began frantically running around the house, shouting her name. Checking the bathtubs first, then the backyard, then the street, the next door neighbor's pool - no Eva Rose.
My panic level was peaking when Shepherd ran inside and shouted, "She's in GG's car!"
I ran to my mom's car, parked outside in the driveway, opened the unlocked door and pulled out my daughter - my soaking from sweat, hoarse from screaming, trembling from fear, almost too weak to cry anymore baby girl - wrapped my arms around her wet little body, rocked her on the driveway and whispered "you're okay, you're okay" over and over, to both of us.
That's how it happens.
She was in there maybe fifteen minutes. Which, experts say, is sometimes long enough.
We never figured out why Ingram was crying. He soon fell back asleep. I know that he saved his sister's life.
When I remember this story, I imagine Eva Rose's guardian angel poking that sleeping boy, then maybe flicking his little ear, then pulling his silky hair - whatever it took to get him good and furious enough to make his momma come check on him and save his big sister whom he now adores.
Thank you, thank you, thank you Lord.