Trigger warning: This post deals with child sexual abuse and may be triggering for some readers.
I am grateful for many things in my life. Most recently, I have been grateful for that “one more kiss” from my son at bedtime. Sometimes on my parenting journey, I notice moments that seem more important, more intense and more heartbreaking.
Recently, my friend died of cancer. I was nursing my young child in the middle of the night and I cried that she would never get to sit in the darkness of her child’s room and settle them with her mere presence. For each of us, these moments of motherhood come and slam us, often without warning. We dust ourselves off and keep going, but we are shaken and wobbly.
Last Sunday night, I kissed my son goodnight. I felt that intensity of emotion rise in my body as I felt tears sting my eyes. I hugged him more intensely and said the same old lines as each night before, only I felt them more deeply. That night, I was remembering my old schoolmate Sam, who disappeared from our lives when I was only nine years old.
I can’t be sure if I was feeling intense sadness that she would never get to hold her own child, or if it was deep pain that her mother Tess lost all these tender moments after only having them for nine short years. I have a five-year-old and a three-year-old, and it is becoming clearer to me as I grow older that losing my children would unhinge me. This full circle of emotions is occurring to me and my old schoolmates right now.
In 1986 my innocence, and that of my classmates at Bronte Public School, vanished along with our classmate Sam. One day it was arguments about who would be King in handball; the next, we had police asking us questions about where she might have gone and who she might have gone with. Our young lives were shaken to a core we didn’t realise we had.
When Sam went missing, I was living with my single mum and my older brother in Bondi. When Tess got home that evening, she called us and asked me if Sam was at my house and I just flippantly said no. I was nine. Then she called us again. Then it got serious. I am now living at the same house 30 years later with my own family. I walk the streets of Bondi carefree with my young children and I enjoy bumping into people I know along the streets. My kids play with the neighbourhood kids on the street, we enjoy local community events, we are open and welcoming and free.