Legitimate

Bee's picture
Tue, 12/07/2010 - 02:52 -- Bee

It is so nice my daughter is an adult: the risk of kidnapping has vanished!

I can disclose my location, discuss and describe my immediate vicinity, share contact information! On my daily perambulations I can look at flowers instead of scanning for bad guys!

I no longer need to sit with my back against the wall.

Miles and years have converted the threat to piquant dinner table anecdote, but it was legitimate. Real. True. Not just a shouted refrain in a custody dispute: oh no. Someone factually held a loaded handgun to my head and made very sure I understood.

Vague instinct informs that this is the sort of thing other people would describe as "traumatic" but I of course just stared down my adversary and got on with life.

I had a kid to raise, after all. There was no need to involve her in drama, beyond a daily litany: don't talk to strangers, don't talk to relatives who show up unexpectedly at school, don't leave school with anyone except your mother. Don't go to the park alone. Don't play in your own yard unsupervised. Don't tell anyone where you live.

She was the kid who was not allowed to be photographed on field trips, the one with copies of her custody papers on file in the school office. She was the one the teachers kept an eye on, at all times, and not just because she is so lively and audacious.

I didn't take her with me on book tours, never mentioned her name in my writing, refused to have her or our home photographed while publicising my work. The work itself was influenced: keeping my daughter safe was the most important thing in the world, and if that meant I could not live and work openly, fine.

I took it as a writing exercise: how to tell the truth without stating all the facts.

My great crime in relationships is lacerating sarcasm. I am a mouthy, wilful creature. But, as is the nature of things, the amenities that attracted my various partners are the same characteristics they hated in the end.

I was not too young to be a mother. I was too young to be a wife.

But now those concerns are all in the past and it is difficult to realise that so much of my life has been tainted by the primal fear of loss, of my child being taken away. Certainly other people are willing to forget - not least the man who informed me his life would be improved by my death.

I might be willing to file the kidnapping and death threats under the heading "youthful hijinks." I can't forgive as I have never received an apology, but I could pretend. Play make-believe. Follow the etiquette: dissemble, because consensual amnesia is social lubricant. It would be much easier for everyone concerned if I just let it all go.

But doing so would be a disservice to my daughter, to myself, to people reading this who might need help, and even to the memory of that relationship. This is who I am: I remember. I report. I hold people accountable.

If you can't do the time, don't do the crime. I'm the same person at thirty-nine as I was at nineteen, and will remain if I live to see ninety-nine. Reconciliation isn't the point - I will always laugh as I tell scathing, scary stories. I will always love the same people, for the same reasons, whether I talk to them or not.

My kid is grown, independent, dazzling. She will make her own choices about knowing the rest of her family, and she has my support no matter what happens.

I did my best to keep her safe, and we have travelled a long way. It is an astonishing relief to become peripheral, to watch and listen as she takes her place in the world.