Every time a child is in the news for something terrible I say “That poor mother. It could happen to anyone.” But in my mind something different is happening. I say to myself “That couldn’t happen to my child because I would never let my child lean over the gorilla’s cage.” Or “I would never let my child play near water where alligators live.” Or “I would never leave my child alone long enough for a stranger to take them”
“I would never let me child play near the street.”
If you know Gus, you know he is obsessed with me. He never leaves my side. He calls me “his sweetheart.” He tells me how pretty I am and how much he loves me every single day. When he is mad at me, he says “You breaked my heart into three pieces.” It is pathetically adorable. I always tell him he can live in my basement when he is old (cue husband eye roll), and Gus is totally into it. Hank says he will pass. But not Gus. Gus is always within arms reach. Until Saturday.
Gus was helping me with some yard work. We had walked across the street to grab flowers from our neighbors. They had offered some plants they had divided and told me to grab more if we needed more as we worked in the yard. Gus and I brought two back and planted them. Me with my spade and him with his snow scoop. We decided to get a third so we crossed again and brought it back.
I was being so careful. I put the hedge clipper on the high shelf so he couldn’t cut himself. I removed a loose stone from the landscaping so he wouldn’t fall when he played on the rocks. I made him wear a jacket so he wouldn’t get sick. All the stuff moms do.
He was holding the brown paper bag while I scooped the debris from our work into it with a rake. He told me “I gots a rake in the garage. My gonna get it.” I agreed that he should absolutely get it.
Ten seconds later I heard the brakes of a car. My body couldn’t move fast enough. As I ran around my car parked in the driveway and blocking my view I saw my Gus. In his gray sweat pants with cowboy boots pulled over them. His fireman rain jacket zipped up. Staring face to face with a mini van just a few feet away. The fellow mom was out of her van asking him where his mommy was as I scooped him up with tears already running down my face. She kindly said she understood, as a mom of a few little boys.
She watched as I wrapped my whole body around Gus and collapsed onto the grass. His big brown eyes looked up at me and filled with tears. The woman stopped again to say “God bless you.”
Whoever you are. Wherever you are…God bless you.
What the woman didn’t know and what Gus doesn’t know is I have seen what happens when the van doesn’t stop. I watched my own mom be held back while the paramedics gave her son, my brother, mouth to mouth. I wasn’t going to let that happen to my child.
But it almost did. Because bad things happen. They happen to everyone. They happen to even the best moms.
Hank heard the commotion and came running to find Gus and I sitting on the grass clinging to each other, both crying. I begged them both to never go on the street without me again. Hank agreed. Through his sweet little tears and gasps, Gus said he was sorry. I asked him why he would ever go onto the street without me. “My wanted to get you another flower. My love you, Mommy.”
He broke my heart into three pieces.