mercredi, juillet 20, 2011

A Mother's Darkest Fears

I think I'm living them, in this hotel on the edge between marginal and frightening, whenever my daughter is staying here.

For a few months, we are living in a one-room studio, while our house is rent beam from beam, and rebuilt, with a new second story and reworked first floor.

I dream of granite tiles and a circular bathtub surrounded by stones, a rain chime that rings in the night, friends gathered round the ancestral family table (right now sitting in my friend Randy's workshop).

But the present reality is sitting near the window of our second-story hotel, peering anxiously outside, trying to see my daughter in the dusk -- my daughter and her new friends, whose ages range between 28 and 19.

Male friends. Friends for whom she adorns herself with eye makeup, and a t-shirt with the shoulders cut off.

One would almost think that she had an absent father -- but she has an active, engaged one.

I worry about her ceaselessly. But mostly when she is here, and out of my sight.

She has a combination of traits that might put her at risk -- a fairly sheltered upbringing, a tendency to trust relative strangers, and a natural beauty that makes her a magnet for young men.

In addition, she is awkward with her peers. Her friends are not the popular girls, the intellectuals, or the athletes. For reasons that are still mysterious to me, she finds herself most at home among the outcasts.

In an endless balancing act, I play out potential peril. Is it o.k. to let her spend time with her new friends, one of whom fought Somali pirates, another who fought in Afghanistan? I've met both of them...they came upstairs to introduce themselves to me.

They seem like very nice young men -- but she can't be in their room without my son, and then, only for a limited period of time.

It's kind of crazy, though to ask an almost 14-year-old to protect the virtue of a 16-year-old.

And as for the two 19-year-olds? Only when they are outside, and I can see them from the window.

Why could she not find a teenage girl her own age to befriend? I dream of girls who would visit the house, giggle in her room, watch "Twilight" and romcoms over and over, raid the refrigerator.

I dream of another, lost world.

Tonight she took a walk around the back side of the hotel, which sits next to another "inn" for long-term stays. Should I allow her to do something the puts her out of view?

Probably not -- but tonight, I allow it. I desperately need to get to the gym, and a telephone call to urge her to return to the hotel suffices.

But it doesn't salve my conscience. I imagine her terrified, in room with a toothless, sociopathic stranger -- and worse. I think of what life would be like without her.

Hopping off the treadmill, I call to make sure she is safe. "You are too trusting" I say. Not everybody she meets is going to be good to her, I warn her.

She's on her way back to the room -- for the moment, I can relax my guard. Tomorrow, she goes back to her dad's house for a few days. Where she will be much safer.

Two months. Months of purgatory, of fear, of anxiety dripping like acid through my thoughts - until we can return home.

When we get there, Lord willing, I will rejoice, knowing that the challenges that seemed to loom so large there might not have been so great as I make them.

After all, she's only climbed out the window at our Glenmoore house to meet up with a guy once -- and then deer on the lawn scared her from doing it again.

I'm so glad I've got a few bucks.

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