She was screaming, more like sobbing, while calling out my name. I could hear her from all the way inside my neighbor’s home—I think we were in the living room, although I’m not really sure. Neither don’t I remember how long I’d been there, or what we were playing.
She had a little girl, I guess around my age—I don’t recall her much, but the mom was nickel brown with reddish brown hair that was probably a Jheri Curl—she also had beautiful smile. It was innocent I thought, when she asked me to come and play with her daughter. My mind still can’t put together just how we came to be inside her house. What will never leave me, though, are the screams that came from my mother, revealing the terror in her heart as she pleaded for me.
“What is wrong with you?” My mother demanded from the lady! The venom in my mother’s voice had replaced her sorrow once she realized I was safe. Again, I don’t recall how the woman responded, I just know how I felt—ashamed that I had caused my mother to worry, but confused as to what I’d actually done wrong. Wasn’t this our neighbor? Isn’t she an adult? Those were the non- verbalized questions that ran through my mind.
Now that I have children, I can’t be sure if it’s my karma, or just a parental rite of passage, but I’ve experienced that same level of fear with my kids—the kind that unhinges, then leaves you undone. In fact, this happened to me just the other day. Against my better judgment, I allowed my two youngest children to accompany to take pictures in the park— despite my knowing that one is an habitual wanderer and the other desirous of my personal attention at all times. Separately, they are always a challenge, but the two of them together make a formidable pair!
After becoming annoyed that I wouldn’t allow him to take a picture, my wanderer gets annoyed and storms off, only I don’t see this. When I realize he has gone and start calling his name, my beloved fourth son does not appear.
He doesn’t appear after the second call, just like he didn’t respond to the first, or the third; he didn’t turn-up when I yelled his name louder, nor when his other siblings began yelling his name. What started as me believing I’d find my son within moments, climaxed to hysteria and fearing the worst. Could someone have taken a child that quickly? Had he somehow fallen into the creek? Then, after what seemed like a million agonizing minutes, my beloved wanderer came strolling up the path, calmly, as if returning form the best place he’d ever been.
I should have been happy that I was finally able to breathe, and I was, but for about ten seconds longer I couldn’t help sounding just like my mother so many yeas ago. “What is wrong you,” I yelled, “and why would you walk off like that?” I went on and on for a least a minute, while my son did nothing but stare. I guess realizing this frenzy ship wouldn’t sail devoid an answer, my wander gave the he best one he had– “I always knew where I was mommy,” he assured me, “to come back, I just followed the path.”
I think it’s quizzical how life can be so simple inside the mind of a child, and in the same moment, be a complete nightmare for the parent of that child; Its ironic how we journey with our children everyday, rearing and teaching them, only to find that our realities are never quite the same. What brings me comfort now, more than all of the things I’ve taught my kids, or the examples they’ve clearly seen, is my new-found understanding of a person’s will. My wanderer introduced it to me clear as glass after he came strolling nonchalantly up that hill.
As each of my children continues to grow, there will be many more times when they’ll be out of my reach and away from my sight. Add to that my human limitations, which will naturally prevent me from telling them everything, and will also limit the wisdom I can give. My wanderer reminded me that I shouldn’t worry (too much)—that when I’m not there, they’ll always have something guiding them to be safe, to do their best, and most importantly, to survive. Just like it did for my wanderer, I hope it always takes to them to the right path!