Once, when I was 5, I woke up from a nap and couldn’t find my mom. I was devastated. I convinced myself she died, and found a photograph of her, a pair of her earrings, and I think maybe a handkerchief. I quickly erected a Mommy Shrine and sobbed, because I’d never see my mother again. After 3 minutes, I wept, and laid my smiling, beautiful mommy to rest. In my sock drawer.
Eventually I went to the garage. My dad was cleaning it out. He went, “what’s wrong with you?” And I broke down and wailed, “Mommy is gone and I’ll never ever see her again!! She left me! All alone!!” And started crying uncontrollably. “What?! What are you talking about?? Your mother went to the store. She’ll be back in an hour. Get out of here. Go play in the basement.” Said my easily annoyed dad. (It was 1977, that’s just how people talked to their kids. My 2 year old brother was often tied to the swingsset on a leash. For example.)
I’ve always told that story because it makes me laugh now – and thus a lifetime of anxiety was born. But I also remember how beyond utterly devastated I was, for 10-15 minutes, thinking I’d never see my mom again. That I’d never find her. She’d never tuck me in again. No more hugs. No more home cooked meals; I’d never seen my dad cook…how would we eat??
She was gone. It was terrifying and my 5 year old mind literally didn’t know how to process it.
I’m thinking about that, with these children who are separated from their moms and dads, with no way of processing what’s happening. And no dad to roll his eyes and tell them to get over it. And no mom to come home eventually and go, “That’s silly. Of course I’d never leave you.” And no hugs. That happened 41 years ago and I still remember it like yesterday. And I have resources and have had therapy. That’s how horrifying it was…I wasn’t being hurt by my country, I wasn’t begging asylum out of fear for my life…my mom came back and made dinner and we watched M*A*S*H. I can joke about it today, I’m okay. But it devastated me in that moment so much it’s stuck with me, the real deep fear, for the rest of my life.
I think about that and what these babies are experiencing. I don’t anticipate jokes or relief in their futures. I don’t.
This is not okay. It’s not. THIS IS A BIPARTISAN/MULTI-RELIGION NOT OKAY. it is NOT. Okay.
Okay? (Say yes. It. is. not. okay.) The end.