I am a child. Our family has driven out to the Brandywine River, to see the museum and the battlefield. It is a warm spring or summer day. Blue skies. We are at the park, having a picnic, my father and mother and my sister, maybe (probably) my baby brother, and my sister and I gambol down a hill, out of eyesight of Watchful Ma. We are playing under the trees. Ten minutes, maybe, pass.
My mother’s voice, screaming for us. Fear. The scream is not a holler or a yell–no, it is a scream–a siren–high-pitched but full in its strength–there is no weakness in the scream, though reflection suggests the scream of course comes from a type of weakness–no, the scream is panic, but determination, will–iron, strong, will–thwarted, frustrated, but not for long–no not for long–
“I thought I lost you,” she says, unreasonably, or something like that. Something like that. My father behind. Our eyes are on Mom. “Don’t wander off,” she says, or “Don’t you wander off,” or “I can’t believe you did that to me–“, or something like that.
“We were right here,” I say, or “We didn’t,” I say, or something like that.
The end of the scream–the relief in her of finding us–of finding us alive, not murdered, in a box, or something like that, some horrible news-story she saw on television or read in a magazine–it is primal, a primal release of energy, all the power and fear and terror and planning exploding, burning, raging, I imagine it subsiding, quickly, back to quiet, back to a stillness–as quickly as the storm came, out it went–
Thirty years later, at my desk, in my house, almost 40, a father, my own father dead now for almost two years, two strange years in which our entire world has been locked up and locked away because of the failure to stop a novel coronavirus from preying on the entire species–I cannot see this memory, not really–I cannot see my sister–I can see the shape of my mother maybe, I can see the blanket we spread out on the grass, under the trees, for the picnic–I can see the hill my sister and I went down, the trees scattered on it, the shadow and light–
It was beautiful, I should say. A beautiful landscape, a beautiful place, a beautiful day. My mother’s scream was not a part of that beauty, and, certainly, for a moment, shoved it aside, but just as it went, the beauty returned, the breeze in the warmth, the sun, the grass, the trees–I remember that–
I remember even then concluding that my mother had overreacted–that perhaps the fear of losing a child was understandable, to a child, even if, of course, I knew where we were, that my mother had bene quick to panic, quick to let the fear not only take hold, but drive out anything else–
I was too young to finish the thought, or even hold the thought–the scream was a sharp and rough primer in empathy for my poor young mother, but I could not hold both the child’s criticism and the son’s understanding together in my head, and could not arrive at the gap, that which was missing—trust. Hope.
Though the power in the scream was a promise of the animal to do anything to find the cub–it was not surrender–quite the opposite–but it was not hope or trust, but anger and battle and fight–
I did know it was love, that the scream, the scream was love. A raging terrified hopeless love. My mother’s love.