This I Believe

Heather - Wisconsin
Entered on January 22, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
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I believe my children will be safe. I have to believe this, or I couldn’t move through my day. I have two kids: a son, Malcolm, who is almost six, and a daughter, Lux, who is three and a half.

Malcolm started Kindergarten this year and he is now gone all day long, doing things in a new place that I don’t know much about. Answers to questions about his day are cryptic. “I only got half of choice time today because Mrs. Bate told me to play sitting down but I made a flying monster truck with Legos so I had to stand up so it could fly, and I got a time out.” Something about that story doesn’t sound quite right. I’ve met Mrs. Bate many times and don’t think she would be that harsh, though maybe it was more about the principle: he wasn’t listening.

I went back to work full-time a year ago, so now Lux is with other people—her preschool teachers or my mother—much of the day as well. Last Tuesday I picked her up early and found her making Play-doh cookies with Marion and Ben. She didn’t see me and I watched as she laughed at something Marion did, an exuberant, mischievous laugh I thought was reserved for home. It was good to hear it out in the world, but strange as well, as if her separateness from me was almost complete.

I tend to worry. Sometimes worry overcomes me so that I can barely breathe.

Six months ago Malcolm had to be rushed to the ER in the middle of the night for what turned out to be heartburn. My friend’s thirteen-year-old daughter was just diagnosed with Rheumatic Fever, which is now treatable, but requires vigilance and drugs for many years. My neighbor’s 19-year-old son was recently killed in a car accident. Decades ago, before I was born, my grandfather, Malcolm, was murdered by one of his parishioners.

Today I went to the funeral of a friend’s brother and mother, who both died in a car accident last week.

These tragedies are all random, but linked in my mind to the fragility of life, to the limited protection I can offer my children. Still, I believe my children will be safe.

Tonight, I walked down the block to buy a bottle of wine. It snowed six inches today and the sidewalks were clean and powdery, the tree limbs outlined with pure, white strokes. The sky had that glowy orange quality it gets after snow, every trashcan, shrub, pick-up truck and rooftop etched against the pale sky with newborn perfection.

As I walked toward home with a bottle in my gloved hand, the funeral still clung to me. It had been packed and tragic, the dead brother’s young girlfriend weeping at the altar, photos of the family on boards all over the church, a young woman sobbing so loudly when the caskets were closed it pierced us all. But I felt it lifting away as I walked through the glowing night toward home, where Malcolm and Lux were already asleep in their shared room. I felt, for a moment, flush with luck, and realized in order to keep this luck rivering forward, I need to believe that my children will be safe.