â€œI Will Never Leave Youâ€
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree Tilt.
Memorial Day has come and gone. Last year, I stood in the Â spitting rain and watched electric guitarists make music Â and Â acquaintances get Â drunk Â and Â I Â heeded Â the guidance from both friends and the Ether to â€œplay more.â€ This year, for Memorial Â Day, all I did was Â work, once again playing catch-up so that I could get my house in order and make preparations. No, this year, nothingÂ whispers â€œPlay more.â€ This year, itâ€™s â€œGet ready.â€
And yet, somewhere between the strained muscle beneath my shoulder and a dozen huge garbage bags of old files and trash I hauled to the garage, I managed a half-power powerwalk Â with Shannon, with me moving stiffly as a result of so many patio blocks Iâ€™ve hauled to the back yard, and then a driving lesson a little later.
Our conversations tend to start with a kernel of some- thing and then zigzag all over Kingdom Come. Today we zigzagged to the idea of life coaches and a recent experience where Â I genuinely Â helped someone by Â taking Â her back to a specific moment when she was 3 years old and her Â feelings Â for Â a Â departed Â family Â member Â were Â discounted by another and how an adultâ€™s reprimand at that young age shaped her entire existence and founded a pat- tern of her feelings not being as important as others Â in her family.
When Shannon mentioned a terrible fear as a small child of being abandoned, I knew exactly where it came from.
Her dad and I always made a big deal over letting the girls know Â that Â we would never ever abandon them, no matter what. Itâ€™s a promise Iâ€™ve stuck by, and always will, no matter what may happen in their lives or mine. I will always be there for my girls.
Yet, in spite of the promises, itâ€™s always been a fear for Shannon, and I trace it back for her, to something I witnessed that was horrible and cruel and made me swear right then that I would never do that to a child of mine. Shannon couldnâ€™t have been more than 2 years old. Her dad and I had gone to dinner, a rare occasion then, and had taken her along. She was well-behaved, as usual, and it Â was Â notÂ uncommon for Â other Â restaurant Â patrons Â to drop by our table and comment Â on what a great kid we had. For the record, we never allowed our kids to roam the restaurant, hang off other peopleâ€™s chairs, throw rolls across the room, scream, etc. Yes, good kids. On this particular night in my memory, a little boy slightly older than Shannon had also accompanied his parents to the restaurant. He ran Â freely about the dining room, hung on the back of my chair, threw rolls Â at Â other diners, screamed, etc. No, not a good kid when it came to dining out. And his Â parents were Â oblivious. Â I was Â pissed. Â After Â all, Â we couldnâ€™t afford to eat out often back then, and my meal was repeatedly disturbed Â by this kid climbing on the back of my chair while his parents sat six feet away.
Shannon, however, was fascinated. Here was a kid just a little older than she was and allowed to do all sorts of things she wasnâ€™t allowed to do. When the parents were ready to leave, the noisy little brat was playing under their table, possibly eating food off the floor and probably unscrewing the tabletop from its base. The parents seemed to notice the child for the first time as they called him once, then announced loudly, â€œWeâ€™re leaving you.â€ Then walked out.
From where my ex and I sat, we could see the couple outside the dining room, in the restaurant Â foyer, settling the check. But Shannon, in Â her high chair, couldnâ€™t see them. To her, the parents really had left. And to the little boy, who eventually looked up from his spot under the table and didnâ€™t see his parents, they really had left.
I will never forget the look on that childâ€™s face. First searching, then fear, then terror. He scrunched up his little face and went running Â for the door, crying, â€œDonâ€™t leave me, donâ€™t leave me!â€
Never mind that if the kid had not been â€œRed Chiefâ€ straight out Â of the Oâ€™Henry Â story about a little hellion, any one of the patrons could have grabbed him and left town by the time the parents noticed him again. But for Shannon, Â seeing Â what Â that Â childâ€™s Â parents Â did Â out of thoughtlessness triggered her worst fears. If other parents would leave a Â tiny child behind for not being good or mindful or obedient, then what would stop any other parent, Â including Â her Â own, Â from doing Â the Â same? Â Thatâ€™s when I promised her I would never leave her. Interesting how things move in circles, because it was a year ago this weekend Â at Â a Â Memorial Â Day Â party Â where Â two Â moms about my age told me with great Â amusement Â how they often tormented their kids for fun. Small entertainments, such as driving them down a road where theyâ€™d often told the child that other bad children had been dropped off there Â and Â the Â animal Â bones Â alongside Â the Â road Â were where the children had starved Â to death or died in the cold…or how erroneously addressed mail was actually for the fictitious older sibling the parents had supposedly discarded for being bad and how easily they could repeat that practice if necessary.
I havenâ€™t Â seen Â either Â of Â those Â moms Â since. Â And Â I donâ€™t really care to see either of them ever again. I canâ€™t imagine ever antagonizing my kids like that, not now and certainly not when they were tiny.
I walked Â away Â from Â those Â two Â laughing Â women, grabbed a six-pack Â of bubble juice out of the car, and blew bubbles in the back yard for the next hour for several tiny boys to chase while I listened to the bands. It was either that or burst into tears.