A Dialogue between Mother and Child Upon Hearing of the Amish School Shootings
Mother: A cornfield holds untold wonder for a child. It’s a question to be answered, a labyrinth of mythical proportions, a meandering journey of sight, scent, sound, and seduction. It whispers to a child, summoning her from the lazy spiraling rhythm of her tire swing. It’s feathery tassels undulate in warm summer breezes as if beckoning a playmate. At once sweet and earthly, its perfume is a magic potion, intoxicating, spirituous.
Child: The first time I wandered into the cornfield, I was captivated by the silence. The breeze that just moments before had mad the tassels dance was now asleep, and I stood for the longest time just relishing the absence of sound. Then, as if sensing my presence, the stalks started swaying and dancing around me. I reached out and touched one. It was rougher than I expected, and yet there was the promise of soft, sweet, tenderness underneath.
Mother: A child listens for the invitation. She watches for the signal that requests her company. She breathes in sweetness and exhales all fear. She is, after all, only 5 years old, certainly not yet as tall as the growth in the cornfield. From her perch on the tire swing, however, she sees eye-to-eye with the tallest stalk. This comforts her.
Child: I never felt lost in the rows. Instead, I was an adventurer, an explorer, a pioneer, blazing trails through a jungle of my own imagination. Each corn stalk was a friend; the rows seemed to part as I made my way deeper and deeper into the fragrant field. The sky was my compass, the birds my navigators. The sounds of my mother, humming as she hung freshly washed sheets in the line, was my anchor to the world outside this yellow-green forest.
Mother: Her bright pink shirt is the only thing that sets her apart from the colors in the cornfield. She stands at the edge, preparing to venture inward. Her buttery-yellow hair and green shorts make her a walking, breathing flower, an unlikely blossom at the edge of acres and acres of corn. And then she disappears among the rows.
Child: As if sensing the explorer in me, my mother would on occasion shout, “Marco,” to which I would reply “Polo!” It was her way of measuring my distance from her, plotting my coordinates on her maternal radar. Deeper and deeper into the maze I would venture, the word “Marco” growing faint on the breeze. Once, startled by a rabbit that darted in front of me, I involuntarily shouted “MARCO!”; the resulting “Polo” taught me that fear is only as powerful as you let it be,
Mother: When she would reappear at the edge of the cornfield, tassels like a feathery crown on her head, her smile would reflect the nature of her latest adventure. A bug might be clenched in her small fist, or a rock, or a caterpillar. “I went far!” she would proclaim…”all the way to the big farm!” I would look across the field, the distant farm a speck on the horizon, and I would answer, “Yes you did, my daughter…you went far.”
Child: One day I resolved to find where the cornfield ended. I knew only that it began near my sandbox, like a door I could open and enter at will. But where would it take me if I marched in a straight line? How long would it take to reach the other side? Was there another side, or was the image from my tire swing of an unending sea yellow-green accurate? Faith led me forward; curiosity fueled my journey.
Mother: One particularly bright summer morning, under a cloudless sky, my daughter ventured into the cornfield, determination etched on her trusting face. I stood on the porch, tracking her progress by watching the subtle movements in a row that cuts straight across the middle of the field. I resist calling “Marco,” content instead to witness her path through mystery with my eyes. With mother earth’s arms around her, she is sheltered in ways she cannot yet understand.
Child: The earth was soft and luscious under my feet. As I parted the row to allow my passage, the sun was a beacon urging me forward. The sweetness of ripe corn was intoxicating. To my left, I heard a new sound and came face-to-face with a doe. She was nibbling gently at one of the stalks, and I was riveted by the realization that my cornfield held mysteries for other explorers as well. I don’t know how long I stood watching the doe, but by the time I moved on, she had rooted herself in my spirit. I encountered something of God in that cornfield that day.
Mother: I didn’t measure time with a clock that day. She could have been in the field for an hour; perhaps two. The only think I knew was that when a child sets out to learn, time is irrelevant. No television could teach her what she sought; no book could reproduce such a journey; no photograph would capture the gentle pulse of her path to understanding. I trusted she would find what she hungered for.
Child: Eventually, I reached the edge of the field and stepped out into full sunlight. The farm that had always sat lazily in the distance now stood before me, taking on new angles and curves at that proximity. I heard a cow’s low mooing, and the sounds of chickens scrabbling for food. A farm machine started up, emitting a guttural thrum, and all of a sudden I knew…I knew it was time to return home. I’d heard this sound before—it spoke of harvesting, of bringing forth blessings from the earth and sharing the bounty with others. I knew that tomorrow my mother would find a seedbag filled with fresh corn on the picnic table, put there in a gesture of community by the family who planted these fields. I also knew that my landscape would change until next summer, when this field would grow anew. I stepped into the cornfield and began my journey home.
Mother: When she emerged from the field that day, I sensed a difference in her. Perhaps it was in her eyes; I can’t be sure. All I knew was that whatever she had gone in search of now revealed itself in her. She was gentle, humbled, peaceful, brave. And for that, I was grateful for the wisdom of the corn.
Child: Here is what I learned that day. The edges hold mystery but the blessings lie within. I carry this wisdom with me still, knowing it is the foundation beneath my understanding, my certainty, and my faith. This I believe.
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