The other day my older sister, Lyndel, picked me up from the airport and then we went to collect my two nieces from school. This is quite a social time for my sister as she waits for class to finish with all the other Mum’s, and was quite fun for me. I peeked through the window of seven-year-old Lucy’s classroom while we waited, not caring that I looked like one of those silly, embarrassing, doting relatives.
Eventually Lucy and Brittany emerged and I got to hug them both and see how much they’ve grown. Brittany had athletics training (she’s quite talented – takes after her Aunt 🙂 – would have broken the school record for high jump if nine year olds were actually allowed to do the frosby flop) and Lucy wanted to go and play with her friend Clare (on the play equipment is what she said) so asked my sister and skipped off. My sister went in to the change rooms with Brittany to put her sports gear on and I headed off after Lucy.
I was sure she swung left around the end of the building, rather than right to the play equipment, turning to look at me with smiling face as she did. But by the time I got to the end of the building she was nowhere in sight, nor was there any obvious place where she might have gone. There was only a bit of a garden along wire fence, then the sports oval. I wandered left anyway seeing no sign of her.
When my sister came out of the change rooms I asked “where did Lucy say she was going?”. Lyndel responds “to the play equipment with Clare” in distracted fashion. So, we send Britty over to the oval, where she joins the runners and stand there looking at the sizeable play gym to the right and I comment “I can’t see her anywhere, can you?”. My sister comes to attention and has a look around and says “no”. So I then have to say “I’m sure she went that way when she ran off”. Lyndel says “I hope she didn’t go to the play equipment around the other side” and heads around the building to look for her. Not there. Then she says “I hope she didn’t think I said she could go to Clare’s house to play – surely not”.
No one is really panicking, YET, but I couldn’t help thinking about the eight-year-old girl murdered in Perth, recently.
Once again I wander down to the left of the building looking about and just as I come along side the garden further down I hear young voices chatting. And there I discover the two little rotters (said with concerned affection) sitting amongst the shrubbery in the garden, looking through the fence at the athletics. I go back and find my sister and tell her they’re just there IN the garden, so we sit back down to watch the athletics. Shortly afterwards along comes a harried looking woman and asks me “have you seen Clare anywhere?” (I didn’t even have to guess who this woman was). I reply rather casually, feeling rather pleased with myself that I now know, “yes, she’s just there, in the garden with Lucy”. As this harried women walks off I hear her say “For God’s sake …” in agitation.
And that was a small experience of one of the terrors of motherhood.
Ever since the release of the Joshua Tree when I was in highschool I have liked that U2 song ‘Mothers of the Disappeared’ but it always sends shivers down my spine and leaves me wet at the back of the eyes – “in the wind we hear their laughter, in the rain we see their tears …”. I think that having a child that just vanished and left you wondering has to be right up there with the worst things that could happen to a person. That smiling glance as Lucy rounded the end of the building might have haunted me forever …
So, I went with Lucy to admire the loungeroom of the house in the garden, where they watch “TV”, that being the events through the fence on the athletics oval, then left Lyndel with Brittany at the high jump, took Lucy firmly by the hand and walked her home.