Saturday, October 11, 2014

So this just happened

I've just come home from the farmer's market. My husband and I have been going there every Saturday morning pretty much since we met in 1999. Over those fifteen years, we've watched people's kids grow up, and people have watched our kids grow in my belly like a strange watermelon, arrive outside, and grow up to the active and curious eight and three-year-olds, respectively. The last few weeks I've noticed a new crop of watermelons and pumpkins bulging under women's shirts. It could be a great way to steal something big and round like that.

 I used to whine that we have no community, because we don't really have the kinds of friends you go away with for fun weekends or who you can call when you need help suddenly. But I've been realizing that we do have community. Not great friends, but maybe that is partly the stage of life we're at with our young children. But we go to the market and say hi to the people we see every week. Eldest buys his own breakfast sandwich from the in-house vendor, and conducts his own transactions. I know he's safe there.

Other ways I see community have been at our community garden, where on work days they let Eldest push full wheelbarrows (that's one of his favourite jobs) and they truly appreciate his contribution. Or at our CSA pick-up, where Eldest unloads the truck with a dolly and does at least as much work as me to set up and take it down as part of our work share. And again, the people who run it honour his contribution. This is it. This is the stuff.

But today my hands are shaky and my eyes are hot and there is a deep, terrified ache in my chest. My three-year-old and I went to buy the tortilla chips we buy every week as a treat. He ran ahead and I was a bit concerned because he can move among the crowd much faster than me, but I kept seeing his bright orange shirt and I figured he'd stop at the chips. But he didn't. He ran right past them and kept running. I called out that he'd ran past them but he was too far ahead to hear.

Then suddenly I couldn't see him anymore. He had to be in the building, right? But there was a wide open door right next to where I'd last seen him, which opened to the sidewalk of a very busy street, and another wide open door on the other side of the building that led to the parking lot with more vendors and then anywhere. My mind couldn't go there. Of course he wouldn't go outside. I looked out anyways but didn't see his little orange shirt anywhere.

I started yelling his name and a woman near me, a vendor, heard me and started looking. When I started describing him, she said, “Oh I know your son!” like I didn't even need to describe him. Even though I don't think I've ever bought anything from her. She started looking too.

I went outside... maybe he could have gone there after all. I called but I couldn't see him. Went back inside and thought I needed to get my husband looking too, but he was all the way at the other end of the building and I couldn't leave the spot I'd last seen Youngest. I'd left my phone at home so I couldn't even text him.

I yelled louder, to anyone who might listen and help. “Ive lost my three-year-old! He's got a bright orange shirt on and brown curly hair!” And then a friend of mine was in front of me. “He's outside, I think. I just saw him.” And she took me outside and he was around the corner a bit just sitting on a bench on the sidewalk. He looked totally calm. My friend said she had noticed him but hadn't recognized him without me there. She had wondered who he was with though. And when she heard me say I'd lost him, she knew immediately.

I would never have looked there, I'm sure. The only way I found him was because someone knew him. That's the stuff.

As for me, I'm sure I'll recover eventually, although mothering this kid seems to just keep traumatizing me again and again. But that's a whole other story.

1 comment:

  1. Okay, so this post is exactly what I think (and explain each year to my Children's Lit classes) the Little Red Riding Hood story is all about. In some versions, LRRH gets eaten by the wolf, and that's where the story ends - it's a cautionary tale about not talking to strangers. In many versions, LRRH (assisted, sometimes, by her grandmother) comes up with a clever stratagem to outwit the wolf. But in the version we all know best, the little girl is not punished with death for her sin of talking to strangers, nor does she develop the resourcefulness to stand up for herself - instead she waits in the belly of the wolf until a kind hunter/woodcutter comes along and sets her free. It would be easy to dismiss that well-known ending under the heading of passive females/sexist fairy tales ... but isn't it odd that our culture has picked that version, the one whose protagonist has the least agency, the least cleverness, and chosen it as the one we retell?

    My theory is that the story isn't really about helpless young girls; it's about helpless parents. We send our much-loved children out into the forest and hope that when we're not there, we have a community who can be relied upon to step in and pull our kids out of the belly of the wolf.