When the Bough Breaks

May 3, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Posted in Family, Transylvania | 16 Comments
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The sun lasered through the white pear blossoms as I glopped sunscreen on three sets of ears. Bees sniffed out invisible spots of honey on the wooden breakfast table. The rooster next door cock-a-doodled at us through the fence.

An idyllic Monday morning. In an idyllic country inn. Except for the occasional quarrel over who got to make wishes on the wispy seeds of the next white dandelion.

And then he came rushing outside, the tall, dark-haired father carrying his tall, dark-haired daughter. She was limp and sweaty. Her flushed cheeks looked like too-ripe cherries. Her gangly little-girl-arms dangled strangely, like twigs broken from their tree.

He laid her on the wooden table and bent down to yell her name in her ear.

We all swarmed over, the guests, the kids, the innkeeper, her mother.

Her mother. Crying, slapping those too-red cheeks, screaming in vowel sounds instead of words, as if her brain couldn’t quite connect syllables.

Someone brought water. Someone else brought wet towels. Someone else, a blanket. Voices bounced off each other like pinballs.

I couldn’t understand anything being said. But I could feel the fear. The panic. The helplessness. As if it were my own. It was my own.

All the mothers, we felt our lungs lock up, refusing to accept air, forgetting how to rise and fall and breathe. We looked and looked away and looked again. We sent silent prayers into the ether.

We imagined our own daughters up on that table. Silent. Still. Wrong.

Minutes passed. Or seconds? The little girl opened her eyes. She reached out for her father. She started to cry, quietly, as if she could contain the confusion, the hurt, the embarrassment, in those perfect, tiny tears.

Her parents whisked her off to the shady porch swing in the cool back corner of the courtyard. They stroked her hair and made her drink water she needed but didn’t want. They rocked the swing, gently, gently, gently.

Her thyroid, someone whispered.

A blockage in her neck, said someone else.

Heatstroke, said another.

No one really knew. No one called a doctor.

Instead, we tried to give them privacy even as we brought offerings of umbrellas, orange juice, and barrettes.

We lingered. We held back.

And we pretended that scent in the wind was a mingled mix of rust and mud, and not sharp, pungent desperation.

Have you ever felt another parent’s fear? Ever wanted to help but not known how — or the words to ask? Ever offered refreshments because there was nothing else?




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  1. This left me shivering, Stacia. Do you know what happened to her?

    • All I was able to discern was that they left for their home in Bucharest early the next morning so the girl could sleep and not be overly stressed with the long drive. They were planning to take her to her doctor once they were home. I hope they made it safely.

  2. I’m with Amber. Shivering! You ask, have we felt another parent’s fear? Every day Stacia, and that’s why I avoid the news. Anytime I hear of something like this, I see myself and my girls. I can’t help it.

    Glad the girl’s OK though.

  3. Seeing someone hurt is scary, seeing a child? A child not unlike your own? Oh, my heart.
    I think food is the universal I care about you language. Heal. Feel better. I love you. All that in a glass of juice.

  4. Oh Stacia. You had me there with you, holding my breath, tears stinging my eyes. I, too, hope they made it safely to someone who could help.

  5. This is a stunning piece of writing, Stacia.

    And yes, we’ve all felt it – or will. I felt it only a few weeks ago, when my best friend’s child was suddenly gravely ill – the desperation, the helplessness. It’s every parent’s worst nightmare.

  6. Terrifying.

  7. Shivering….so sad. i hope they made it safely to get help.

  8. Gripped by your words Stacia. Oh, I hope, I so hope they got her the help she needed.

  9. Oh, yes. I feel the shiver too. I was just with a friend who is taking in another child, and wrestling whether she should be allowed (allowed!) to go back to her unstable parents. I don’t understand how our world could have children whose parents are that out-of-controlled. I want to pretend that everything is always okay, but life can suck sometimes.

  10. Terrifying Stacia. I’m sure it must have been hard (impossible) to shake that awful feeling.

  11. I felt all of this right with you…amazing, Stacia. Of course. It’s one of the worst nightmares for us as parents and at those times, all children become ours. I wasn’t a direct witness to this, as my Japanese teacher was recounting an experience she had gone through some 16 years back. Her family was taking a vacation at a Japanese inn, and in their cottage there was a hot springs tub. There was a lot going on and a lot of noise, when after some time the parents noticed they hadn’t seen their 2 year old daughter. They ran through the apartment and found her floating, face down in the tub. The little girl was brought to a hospital where she was in a coma…after 18 hours, the parents heard one word come out of her mouth: “train.” My teacher told me that story because her cell phone had rung and it was that daughter calling, now 18. I was so emotional.

  12. Holy crap.

  13. Oh Stacia, I could feel all that desperation in your post. I couldn’t wait to get to the end and was SO glad that she opened her eyes.

  14. Beautifully written xx

  15. What a frightening thing to have witnessed. Could feel the fear jumping off the page. So glad she came round.

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