When she’s gone my mind begins to fill up with all the things that can happen, slowly like I’m filling a pitcher from a drowsy tap. Images fill with bruises and indignity, how well do I know this other mother? Where have they been all day? What might be happening-what could be happening, the things I know that DO happen.
It’s not paranoia, not really, despite being impossible to explain to other parents, women and men who didn’t spend their childhood in a currency usually left to adults. In my brain lies a summer I can never leave behind, and it colors everything. I’m not paranoid, knowing that the worst can happen.
Rationally, I know it likely won’t. But it could, it can and I worry for all those reasons, even if it’s buried in my brain somewhere and the other mother laughs when I call and says “Man, don’t WORRY! She’s great!” I can’t tuck her away in my back pocket and hope nothing ever happens. I have to let her free-but that freedom costs. It huddles in the corner and whispers to me about boyfriends, neighbours, people she might meet. It whispers that they could be holding her down right now, taking pictures, ignoring her crying, hurting her.
It whispers of all the horrible things that happened to me, and more. “Be the person your mother wasn’t!” my body shouts, “Make sure she never hurts!” but then she walks in the door, eyes lit with 5 year old joy and frosty air and I know my fears are relatively misplaced, and that people, most people are good people who wouldn’t help someone else abuse a child I know this and try to wear the callous off my heart.
Pregnant I foresaw this. I felt her tiny feet in my ribs and knew that, if a daughter, I would place the little girl I was over top of her-I would make a transparency of my childhood and hover around it, waiting for the chance to erase the potential of what could be. I would protect her from everything that tried to destroy me.
I can’t though, you know? I can’t protect her from the world anymore than I can get North Korea to stop being asshats. She is in the world, on her own terms and while I can still guide and try to shape that world, I cannot prevent the bad things as I could when she was just an infant. That lesson they warn us, as parents that will hurt the most, it hurts doubly, knowing exactly, in technicolor, what terrible things could happen to her.
I might not ever get past it, the tenseness in my chest when she’s not home when she was to be home, the quiet worry when she walks out the door, into the hands of another woman, the possibilities of caution, the frank terror some of this holds for me, trusting someone, not just with me, but with my child, with the creature that turned beneath my heart such a short time ago.
Letting go of this, my worst fear, my scared little girl trying to make sure the worst doesn’t happen to my daughters-it’s a struggle. And maybe I’ll never grow past it and will always freeze up with momentary agony, remembering, wondering.
But maybe not. Maybe she’ll just come home, smelling of smoke and hay and joy, as a kid should.