A Child's Fear

February 24, 2012
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The sun was streaming into the gazebo through the open sides. The adults were not calm. They did not lounge in the chairs we had always envied. They sat on edge, and we were worried.

The adults had been strained and tense most of the week, snapping at us for the most minor crimes. We were not playing. There was something going on and we did not know what to do. Did we play? Were we supposed to pretend we didn’t notice when they glanced at us? What was in their eyes? We knew then that we were not supposed to know anything. That the adults hid many things that they did, but we did not know how to access that information.

And we weren’t sure that we wanted to. There was something terrifying about how hushed their voices were and how our mothers cried at night and kept us awake.

The stream we normally played in was gurgling away, welcoming us, but were we allowed in it. Most of us understood that when adults were unhappy, then the children were not allowed to be happy. That was how it always worked.

The littlest ones tugged at us to go play. How could we? We did not want to. We wanted to make this better for out parents. We wanted to take away their burden. But we did not know how. All we knew was that they did not like it when we were loud. They did now like it when we laughed and played while they were unhappy.

We all knew that. Our daddies always told us not to be loud, mommy was tired.

Why was mommy tired though? Our mommies had not been going away to work, they had been lying in bed, sleeping. We had not been allowed to see them for some time. We did not know why that was so, but we knew we missed our mommies.

Did they not love us anymore? Was that why? Many of us were trying not to cry. We all worried about this. What did we do to cause this? Something had happened. Had it been us? Could we fix it?

We did not cry. Our mommies and daddies always sighed in the way that told us they were angry when we started to cry. So we did not cry.

This had never happened before. This had never been an unhappy place before. We had always come here to play, and get hugs from Grandma. We liked to come here. We used to like to come here. Now we were not sure. Was this a bad place now?

We did not know.

We wanted someone to comfort us. We wanted Grandma to hug us.

We missed Grandma.

She was sick, they said. She needed us to be strong. We did not know how to be strong for Grandma. We did not know.

We didn’t used to know that we didn’t know.

It was so scary. We were so scared.

The sun shined and the stream gurgled, and we did not understand. But eventually our mommies would come and hug us, and we would go home with our brothers and sisters and we would sleep in the big bed in our mommies’ and daddies’ rooms, and tomorrow, we wouldn’t have to worry about today. And even if we weren't thinking that then, whenever one of our parents looked up from where they murmured, we were comforted.

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