by Bruce Yasgur

Our son, DB, recently left home for college — straight down Market Street to Drexel University, where he’s majoring in biomedical engineering. It reminds me of the first time he left home.

That was 1996, well before cell phones had found their way into our pockets. DB was 11 months old and had never been separated from at least one of us. My wife, Janice, had taken a year off to be a mom, and DB and I did guy stuff when she took an evening off to attend a class, shop or whatever.

DB would ride facing me in my front-mounted baby pouch as we strode downtown, stopping traffic and magnetizing women along the way. It was even better at night. DB fell asleep on my chest every night before we put him in his bed next to ours. I can still feel that warm spot.

The day arrived for Janice to return to teaching. Having searched for weeks and having our top choices for in-home baby sitters fall apart at the last minute, we spent an entire weekend frantically phoning and running around our extended neighborhood checking out possibilities. By Sunday evening, we settled on what appeared to be a safe and comfortable childcare arrangement at the house of a woman named Judy.

Either of us would be able to drop DB off there on our way to work. Monday morning arrived; Janice took him first. As we strapped DB into his car seat in the rear of Tootsie, The Totally Terrific Tan Toyota Tercel, he must have sensed that something terrible was about to happen. He let out a wail that announced to the world that we were sending him away forever.

I told him that it was OK and that I’d see him later; but nothing would console him. I worried all the way to work. I taught at Central High School back then. Instead of going straight into the library for the obligatory first-day-back-from-summer-vacation meeting, I went to the office and phoned Judy’s.

No answer. How could there be no answer? Despite lots of reasonable and perfectly innocent imagined responses to this question, this knowledge did nothing to ease my concern. It even planted a seed or two of fear. We’d all been to Judy’s a couple of times just to be sure that it was the right place for DB. It was a beautifully-renovated, spotless row home in the neighborhood. Judy, her husband and their two kids seemed to be the ideal family.

DB would have fit right into their family portrait. But when no one answered the phone, my concern mounted. Maybe they’d just gone out for a few minutes. I left a message. Despite my growing angst, I couldn’t help but think of the upside: it was a good excuse to get out of the stupid meeting. I paced back and forth between the office and the library.

Hours seemed to pass and Judy hadn’t called, so I phoned again, about 20 minutes later, as it turned out. Again, no answer. I left another message and shared my fears with Dorothy, the secretary: Could this perfect-looking family have been part of an elaborate scheme to kidnap babies who looked like them and sell them on the blonde-baby market? I’d read about desperate couples who were willing to pay big bucks for a baby.

By this time, I was beginning to panic. I had a clear picture of my worst nightmare: Judy and her “family” were all actors who went around renting houses and setting them up to look like ideal infant daycares. Once they had the babies they were looking for, they skipped town and headed for their next location, probably dropping off the baby – MY BABY! – on the way.

Why hadn’t we done our homework and interviewed the neighbors to find out if Judy and her family were long-time residents or had just moved in? That oversight was unforgivable. OK, I was going to leave school and drive down to rescue my kid, if it wasn’t already too late. They could be in Jersey by now or Delaware or anywhere! Dorothy suggested that I phone again before flying off; maybe Judy hadn’t checked her messages. I did. Judy answered, a little out of breath: “We were just out for our morning stroll around the neighborhood.”

“Sounds great. Can you put DB on the phone?” I caught my breath and settled down.

“Sure. Here; it’s your daddy.”

DB and I talked our special “talk.” It was definitely my baby; everything was alright. I no longer had an excuse to leave work. I spent the rest of the day, if not happy, at least relieved, to sit in boring meetings.

Bruce J. Yasgur, JD, EdD, of Havertown, grew up first in West Oak Lane and later in East Oak Lane. He taught at several high schools, including Central, and at three colleges, including Temple University. His father’s first cousin was Max Yasgur, who gained worldwide publicity when he allowed his huge property in upstate New York to be used as the site of the legendary Woodstock rock music festival in 1969, attended by about 500,000 crazies, some of whom were almost swallowed up by the mud.