These days it's monsters. They no longer lurk in closets or the shadowy beneath. They are out in the open. They have guns and bombs and poison. There is no immunization for monsters.
I can't imagine what it would be like to lose one of my children. I still could. I realize that every single day, but something like the Sandy Hook shooting underscores it, punctuates it, puts in it boldface type. They are big and broad and so very alive. But anything could happen. I think back to the days when they were small. It was everywhere, the danger. I thought it would get easier to keep them safe but it just gets harder. So much harder. Because the older they get, the less control I have.
Friday night, right after news of the shootings, I dropped my youngest son, his best friend, and two girls off at the skating rink. The girls giggled, the boys affected nonchalance. They were unaffected, maybe even unaware, of all the malevolence that stands between them and adulthood. They climbed out of my van, and I surrendered them to world. Was it the shooting? I don't know. But for the first time in many years, I found myself using an old trick from those long ago days when their autonomy was so new and my ability to trust that they would return to me so very tenuous.....
Talisman (originally written 01/30/08)
a gray fleece jacket,
dark blue baggy jeans, fashionably frayed at the cuffs,
a button down shirt with gray, navy and white stripes,
(handed down from his brother),
a white undershirt,
brown tennis shoes with tan laces,
a navy blue and orange Land's End backpack that has seen better days.
Medium brown hair that curls under around his ears
and at the nape of his neck,
large eyes that are bluish grayish greenish,
lots of freckles that he hates,
and a large one on his lower right cheek,
a gap between his front teeth,
one of which is chipped and won't stay capped,
a little bit of a double chin; the last vestiges of baby fat,
height? I still have to stoop to give him a hug,
stocky but not fat, solid and strong.
He looks very small, standing out there, just across the street. He waits for the bus alone in the dark; too old for hand holding, too proud for company.
But I watch. I can't not.
I need to know he is safe, at least as safe as he can be out of my sight, out of my hands, out of my care. I remember the days when nothing took my children from my side. They were hard, those days, but they were also serene. I trusted myself.
And if I had a moment of irrational fear, I could simply touch, listen, intuit. I could calm my worry with the balm of their slow easy breathing, the warmth of their velvet skin, their aroma of powder and milk. I could smell, taste, and touch their wellbeing.
But the day came of course, when they left me. When I had to trust someone else to keep them safe.
It was very hard...for me.
They took it all in stride, treating it as a great adventure, which of course, it was. They were drunk with independance; high on autonomy. They didn't look back. Only forward for them, always forward.
It's gotten easier over the years, but I still occasionally have moments of stomach clutching fear. What if something happens to one of them? How would I go on?
I have no prayers and no God to hear them.
So, as he stands there, I catalogue him. It's my talisman against evil. My mother mantra. My bad things don't happen to good people charm.
If he gets lost or snatched, I know that he is there in my mind, just the way he looked right before he left me, whole and safe. I can tell the officers exactly what he was wearing, right down to the smallest detail. And they will tell me that with such a description, they will have no trouble at all finding him.
And they will ask me, "Ma'am, did you actually see him get on the bus?" And I can say with great certainty, "YES officer, I did."
The bus comes, and as it pulls up he is hidden from my view. I can see only his feet, which disappear one by one as he mounts the steps. I keep watching, and then I see his head bobbing down the aisle. He takes his seat, and I can see him no more.
Only then do I close the door on the world that has swallowed my child like a great beast swallows a tender morsel.
And I say to myself...
A navy blue newsboy cap,
a gray fleece jacket,
dark blue baggy jeans....