Saturday, February 18, 2012

I can see clearly now...

Yesterday, while shopping for something for my two year old son to wear to my Mom's funeral (which we believe will be taking place in the near future), I was reminded of a story that my Mom used to tell about one of our own shopping trips. I was little, maybe four years old, and we were in a department store. Mom said that one second I was there, and the next second I had vanished. She looked around but couldn't see me. She looked under the clothes racks but I wasn't there. She called out my name, but I didn't respond. And suddenly she found herself standing there, paralyzed with fear, until after what felt like an eternity (but in actuality was only a few minutes), I came skipping out of the dressing rooms where I had gone to sit and tie my shoe. I remember that day. I remember how pale she was, how she couldn't speak, and how still she was as she took my hand and led me out of the store and to the car, where she just sat for several minutes with her hands on the steering wheel. I used to laugh when she told that story. And she used to tell me that one day I would understand.

Yesterday while I was trying to sift through the racks of children's clothes at a department store, with my purse on one arm, Jameson's new dress shoes in one hand and his hand in the other, he broke free from my grip and took off running. I hung the article of clothing I was trying to look at back on the rack and walked in the direction that he had run off to. He was gone. I looked all around me and couldn't see him. I couldn't hear his feet padding around on the carpet. I couldn't hear his laugh. I squatted down to look under the hanging clothes and called his name. And that's when it happened. All of the air in the room was gone. I couldn't move. I couldn't breathe. Every horror story that I had ever read about children vanishing in an instant, never to be seen alive again, exploded in my brain. I somehow managed to force myself to call out his name again, loudly and in as stern a tone as I could muster, and he came running out from behind a distant rack smiling and laughing. The whole ordeal had lasted maybe a minute, but I felt traumatized.

I used to look at parents who walked around the mall with those harness things on their kids and think to myself "Wow, you have to put your kid on a leash? How sad are you?" This morning I found myself looking on for one of those harnesses for Jameson. Because the truth is, he's not a bad baby. And it's not that he's trying to be disobedient when he wants to walk around a store on his own two feet. He's two, he's asserting his own independence and trying to explore his environment, which is completely natural for his age. I can't be angry at him for what happened yesterday, and I can't be angry at myself for the fact that I only have two hands. However, the world today isn't how it was when our parents were children. It's not even what it was when I was a child. But if anything ever happened to Jameson, if someone was ever able to seize the opportunity to take him from me in the split second that he was out of my sight, I'm not sure I would survive it. So maybe the next time I'm at the mall and Jameson is wandering around in his leash, some non-parent will judge me for my choice the way that I used to do. But frankly I don't give a damn, because just like my mother always said I would, yesterday I finally understood.