I watched the whole incident unfold in front of my eyes.
Small, reddish colored car with indistinguishable markings slowed down next to my daughter as she was peddling her bike up the street. I was a bit behind her helping her brother on his big wheels.
Was it a Corolla? Civic? I didn't recognize it.
Suddenly my daughter was off her bike and heading towards an outstretched arm out the passenger side window.
Ever feel your heart in your throat? I can tell you it's NOT a good feeling.
It took seconds...simply seconds...for her to be at the window so I started to sprint, aware that I was leaving one child behind for the other, and approached the car.
There sat our elderly neighbor - name unknown - with 2 lollipops in her hand. One for each of my children. She said hello in her thick, Greek (I think?) accent and told me how nice it was to see us out and about after so much rain.
Are you effin' kidding me?? Nice to see us? You just sent my heart racing in panic...bribed my daughter off her bike with candy (more to come on that!!) and made me choose between saving one child or staying with the other. NOT HAPPY lady.
So that brings me to the conversation that took place after they drove off.
Me: "Do you know who that was?"
Her, shaking her head: "No."
Me: "So you realize you just got off your bike, went up to a stranger's car and took candy?"
Blank stare. More blank staring. Still staring.
Me: "I'm not mad. But that was VERY dangerous."
Her: "But YOU knew her."
Me: "Not really. And you didn't know I knew her until I got to the car. All I know is she lives down the street but I don't know her name and I didn't know that car she was driving. She's a stranger to us. What does that mean?? We never, ever, ever go up to a stranger's car for ANY REASON. You keep peddling towards the people you know. Please. Don't do that ever again."
At this point my son has arrived asking a millions questions. What happened? What's the matter? Who was that? What did they say?
I reiterated that I wasn't mad. I wasn't upset. Well a little. But I was scared. Even though I was walking behind her, I explained that bad people do bad things quickly.
Tears welling up. Tears. Don't cry. She's safe.
We continued talking about it most of the night. But in afterthought I was so angry at that woman. WHO in their RIGHT MIND offers candy to children from their car window?
I know - she's about 75 or 80 and may not know different - or she could be priming them up for trust so she can lure them to her house when I'm not around (shake off bad images but they are always floating in my head). To her, having candy for the kids in the neighborhood might be normal. We used to take it from the mailman, neighbors, ice cream truck...
Don't you know, the next night while the kids were playing in the street I watched my daughter approach a stranger walking a dog in our neighborhood and talk to her.
What to do? Tell her not to speak at all? Not to be friendly? Tell her all strangers are evil, child-snatching freaks? The image and panic still make my eyes well up. Aaarrghhh. Damn the evil and the unthinkable that fill our news headlines and plague our lives - gone are the days of "Come home when the street lights come on".