Let me tell you the real story of the White Tiger Ornament. It's legendary in our family because it has impacted our lives since 2000.
Here's what happened. It didn't really have to do with the ornament -- but the ornament is a reminder of the tale.
As the millennium turned from 1999 to 2000, our family of 5, ( Jennifer age 15, Jackie age 12 and Julia, age 6 ) and other good family friends (also a family of 5) decided we would go to Las Vegas to ring in the New Year. In retrospect, what were we thinking?
At any rate, on New Year's Eve we went to the Siegfried and Roy show, all ten of us. ( I bought the ornament sometime during the weekend.) It was great fun, but walking the Strip back to our hotel on New Year's Eve was also a mistake. Lots of inebriated, crazy pants people, and we had small children in tow! Fortunately, we had a lovely, safe New Year's Party in our rooms to ring in the new millennium, and we made a plan to visit the new hotel, the Venetian, for brunch on New Year's Day before we left.
The next morning, we walked to the Venetian, marveled at the architecture, and the indoor canals, and had a nice brunch. Ready to head home, we walked to the rest rooms before starting on the road. There was lots of activity near the rest rooms, lots of slot machines, and blinking lights, and there was a lot of us too -- so much to distract! Just before we left, I found a quarter in my pocket, so I wandered over to the slots, put it in, won nothing, and then joined the group to leave.
After everyone gathered outside the restrooms, we took the escalator up two flights to the parking garage, and then walked at least 5 minutes to our cars. As we started to approach our van, I looked around, and I didn't see Julia, our little 6 year old!!!!!!! She had been left behind -- way back at the casino!!!!
I was frantic with fear. I can still feel the anxiety when I recall the moment I realized she was gone. I'm not sure it was me, but someone said, "We don't have Julia!" And ALL ten of us started to run as fast as we could back to the hotel.
I'm not a fast runner, and the men were out pacing me, so I knew they would get there first, but I was glad of that, and just kept running as fast as I could. As I ran, I made a promise. Here's what I said: "Dear Lord, if you give me back Julia safe, I will NEVER come to Las Vegas again."
After we raced across the parking garage, and went down the escalators, and into the casino again where we had gathered at the rest rooms, there was a group of people bunched around a tall stool. And as the group parted, I saw Julia in the middle, sitting on the stool, with the security guards on each side, drying her tears. I began to sob and took her into my arms.
Julia had followed me to the slot machine when I dropped in the quarter, got distracted, and did not follow us up the escalators. And there were so many people, that I didn't notice her absence until we were so far away. Just bad parenting all around. And it might be funny if it wasn't so scary. Losing a little one in a casino on New Year's -- so many bad decisions rolled into one, it's hard to comprehend.
And now it's going to be 2021. Twenty one years later. And I have not been to Las Vegas since. And I don't ever intend to visit again. My daughters have said that the statute of limitations has run out - and now that Julia is 27 years old there could be no harm in a trip to Vegas.
But I think a promise is a promise. And "Never" means "Never." It seems a small price to pay for the safety of my darling baby girl!