Where is your mommy?’ I asked, kneeling down to his level, trying my best to be convincingly ‘safe’ in my face, my distance, and my voice. Three years-old, maybe halfway to four, his toddler tummy and height gave away his vulnerability against the vehicles radiating midday summer heat. He offered no response but a shuffling of feet, a quiet gaze toward the amusement park cries at our backs. I did not know this child, but I knew this nightmare. One of many unwelcome fears nestled in against my joy, ever present in motherhood.
‘What is your name?’ I tried again, gesturing toward my own family as reassurance of safety. But his young mind had taken refuge somewhere more comforting than this empty parking space. Silent and tearless, he rocked slightly, the breeze framing his face in a fan of fine blonde hair. His eyes averted mine as the colors of the sorrow spectrum ran through my mama heart. He did not see me, but I saw him as the very breath a parent was gasping for in this moment.
‘Will you take my hand?’ I asked. And hearing me now, he did. I hoped my own tears were not confusing as we stood and scanned and listened. I hoped he would not dart away each of the times his reluctant hand tugged free, only to quickly return. Finally resigning his hand to mine, he looked to my face as though to speak, but the fear had taken his words. It their absence, only a physical plea - neck tensed in effort, mouth wide and useless in a silent scream.
‘I'll stay with him,’ I said as security arrived with lights whirling and radios chirping. I wondered about his bedtime. I thought how deeply he would sleep tonight to repair from this. How someone would keep their tears quiet to take in his sleeping face, safe in his bed. Then, as silently as our encounter began, I saw the bounding man. His shoes barely contacted the ground in his stride, his body an animation of suspended limbs. He did not call out. There were no words or sounds in the window of humanity that opened up before us. Only quiet reverence for this intimate reunion as father fell to his knees, and child was taken into grateful arms.
‘You ok? my husband asked as we drove away, safe and secure with our own children. Yes. No. Maybe not ever with this coupling of joy and fear in my heart. I expected big love as a parent, but no one speaks of the big fear. The fear of the loss of this love is a tangible force pressing in against our happiness. Alongside my gratitude, my joy and my love, it will always be there. The helplessness to fight against it my own silent scream. A soundless falling to my knees.