I sit on the largest piece of ‘rock’ in the tiny playground, just a few steps away from the house I just exited. The ‘rock’ is modeled to be like a chair of sorts, an anomaly in a children’s area, a toddler’s danger zone. Yet there it is.
I idly trace the carved letters in the rock – declarations of young love, “Paul loves Lily” and proof of someone having spent more than a little time here, “Rob was here, February 1988.”
I was 12, and I had been waiting for my mother to pick me up for nearly two hours. I had extra classes for Math at a teacher’s house, alongside 10 other students, and everyone had left. Each and every single on of them had someone waiting for them in a car, who whisked them off home.
I was alone. I waited in the teacher’s house, for what I deemed to be a polite amount of time (45 minutes), was offered the telephone, to call my mother, but I declined. I knew she wasn’t at home. In the days before cell phones, text messaging and Facebook, it was a matter of waiting it out. No frantic SMS. No Facebook updates on where I wonder my mother was at the time. No emergency calling my dad.
Two hours after my class had ended, I saw the black Volvo in the distance. I was beyond angry or upset. I was just…. resigned, if you will.
“Sorry, I lost track of time.”
“Yup. It’s okay.” (Where WERE you?!?)
“Why didn’t you wait inside?”
“I just wanted some air. It was boring in there anyway.” (The teacher had things to do. You know, like, live her life in her own home?)
“Next time, just wait inside. It’s not safe out.”
“Okay.” (Next time, turn up on time.)
The two hour wait was rare, but waiting was not unusual. Sometimes, I think my mother forgets about me. It would be easy to forget. The third of four children. The typical middle child – always craving attention and approval, and getting neither. Unless something happened.
Was I waiting for something to happen to me, outside that teacher’s house? Was I tempting fate? Was I trying to get my mother’s attention?
I always felt a little like an outsider. I was always a little rebellious, even way back in kindergarten. I was quick to mouth off, shoot back retorts to my parents and adults alike. I spoke my mind, I liked to think I was standing up for “the little people”, little people being me.
My mother loved me. She loves me still, I’m sure. But never in the way I craved back then. It was not a huggy, I-love-you, how-was-your-day, let’s-talk-about-our-feelings kind of childhood. It just wasn’t our way.
Since the day my children were born, I have hugged them daily. I say I love you all the time, maybe too much. I dream of the days when they’re older, and they will confide in me. I turn up for preschool pickup 20 minutes early, always. I never, ever want my children to think that they have to get my attention in drastic ways. I want to be their home base, forever.
I am making a new way. I am not like my mother.
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