Every parent’s worst nightmare

It was a scorching day in early July 2014, when I left my twenty-month old son in the capable hands of my mum who had offered to babysit for the day. Later, I flopped onto the sofa excited to share the details of my day at Wimbledon. It didn’t take a moment to realise from my mum’s wan smile and slightly dishevelled look that she’d had rather more adventure than she had bargained for and she and my husband Steve filled me in on what I’d missed.

Steve had arrived home early from work and took the dog out for a walk, leaving the garden through the very stiff, 5 bar back gate which led out onto the field behind The Sands. He had left the boys pottering in the garden, Jonty, dressed in nothing but a nappy and a T-shirt playing in the sandpit.  He returned 20 minutes later to find mum, frantic; she couldn’t find Jonty anywhere!

Steve dashed out of the garden heading first for the road, but there was nobody in sight.  A scene from his dog walk suddenly flashed into his mind as he remembered seeing in the distance, a man walking towards the field gate below Calais Cottage with a little boy on his shoulder; the realisation dawned that the boy must be Jonty.

With rising panic, he sprinted in the direction that he had last seen the man disappearing with our son and found him leaving Calais Cottage. Steve saw Jonty, perched atop the stranger’s shoulder, his cheeky little face, full of mischief and was overcome with immense relief, gratitude and joy. He listened distractedly as Jonty’s rescuer told of how he had found Jonty making his way through the kissing gate at the bottom of The Sands field, next to the stream and realised that he must have toddled through the unlatched garden gate after him.

Feeling rebuked at his carelessness, drained at the thought of what could have been, but so grateful to be holding Jonty again, Steve didn’t think to ask the rescuer’s name so absorbed was he in clutching Jonty in his arms as if he might slip away again.

As we recently gave thanks for Jonty on his eighth birthday, we felt a huge desire to know who his mystery rescuer was and to thank him personally. We may never discover who it was, but my hope is that this story may bring back memories of that hot July afternoon in 2014 when our little boy was returned to us safe and sound thanks to the care of a God-given stranger.

Jenny Miller

April-May 2021