All parents worry about their children being ripped from their lives. Even my most relaxed parent friends have that little black thought lurking somewhere in their heads, not too far from the surface. What if something happens? What if they go away from me?
When the girls were about 6 months old I had a vivid dream that I had given O to a trusted friend who was carrying her in her car seat. We were heading to a fringe festival play, and I had Z while my friend was somewhere else with O, but I knew we would all meet up at the theatre. Once I had the tickets I went in to find my friend and there she was, but she did not have O. When questioned the friend told me that she had just put O, and the car seat, "over with the coats". I hurried over to the place where audience members had been tossing their coats in a pile, and O was not there. She wasn't anywhere. In the dream I frantically searched for my baby, told anyone who would listen that she was missing, and eventually the whole cast of the dream was searching, organizing candlelight vigils, etc. etc. I woke up with my heart pounding so hard I could almost see it, jumped up, looked around and saw O right there, sleeping peacefully beside her dad. The flood of relief was crazy. In my lifetime I have never known a comparable feeling of thankfulness. It was a dream! She wasn't gone. She was right there. Right there.
When I was pregnant with the girls I was part of another fear turned to relief moment. I was working as a performer/storyteller at our provincial museum. I decided to take my break in one of the two main lobbies. I was sitting in a leather chair, absent-mindedly watching the crowds, when I noticed two moms walking across the big hall with all their kids trailing behind. The youngest of the group was a tiny girl who was probably between two and three years old. As the little girl toddled along she had her face in one of the museum guide pamphlets, happily looking at a picture of a big wooly mammoth. She did not see the rest of the group swerve to go look at a showcase of stuffed birds. She just kept walking forward and had soon passed through the big doors into the other lobby and was swallowed up into the snaking line of people waiting to pay their admission. And in two huge lobbies teeming with people, I was the only one who had seen this happen. The mom turned, did a kid head count, and then I saw the panic hit hard. The mom began to spin, scan, call. In the space of a few seconds I saw all of it flood into that mom - abduction? No, please no. I was far enough away that it took me a few moments to get over to her but I got there and just said: "She's over here." The mom followed me to the door of the other lobby. There was a sea of people in there, but in an instant I saw the little girl, face still in pamphlet, far across the room. She had quietly wandered through the crowd unnoticed. "There!' I pointed, "Do you see her, by the totem poles?" The girl was at least 30 feet away from us. The mom saw her baby and said: "Yes! There she is!" She rushed forward and then quickly glanced back and said: "Thank you!" and then I lost sight of both of them in the throngs. That mom and I never saw one another again. But I bet we remember one another, and I imagine I am a character in her story version of the event just as she is in mine. Only in her version a giant pregnant woman in a Victorian costume appeared out of nowhere to point her to her lost child.
Yesterday J, the twins, and I did the epic drive from my parents' apartment back home to our Town. This trip includes a ferry trip, so the entire journey, if you do it in one day, takes about 13 or 14 hours. And we had to do it in one day as J had to work today. The entire province was experiencing horrid weather, and the southern to central half, which includes this whole trip, was drenched in rain. J took on all the driving, and it was pretty darn scary. We were being pummeled with the kind of rain with which windshield wipers can barely compete. We hit patches of thick fog and puddles that were really small lakes. It was all pretty crazy, but there was one moment that kind of took the scary moment cake.
We stopped in a small town to gas up, and just as we had gotten ourselves back into the car and on to the highway J said: "Jesus." I looked ahead to see, through the murky, darkening, world, that an on coming semi was passing a car right in front of us. This was on a double solid line. The semi was bearing down hard and fast, in our lane, and it was going to hit us head on. J steered over so that one wheel was on the shoulder and the other was in the grass. The semi squeaked back into it's own lane about the moment we passed it. If not for J we would probably all be dead today. That fast. After it was over J and I agreed that neither of us had even had enough time to get scared or freaked out, because it all happened so fast. But afterwards, for a few moments, I allowed the "what ifs" to creep over me. What if J hadn't been in superhero mode? What if I'd been driving instead and wasn't as clear headed? But my biggest, most horrible what if is always this - what if I survived but.... nope, can't even type the rest of that thought out.
I've been reading a couple of blogs lately from parents who have had to face, or are facing, this horrible question: how do I, how will I, how can I, survive this? One blog is that of a woman whose son drowned, and the other is that of a dad whose two year old has ravaging leukemia. So I know that people can and do get through. But I admit freely that a huge part of my life right now is lived in fear of these two perfect baby girls somehow exiting my life.
We are home today, safe and sound. All four of us. But yesterday I did look this great parenting fear right in the face in the form of a giant truck grill.
Love your kids, devote yourselves to them, and remember that no matter how slow that car in front of you is going, it is never worth it to reckless pass and almost wipe out a small family.