I mean, it was fine. I was twelve or thirteen, young enough to get a little anxious, old enough not to cry about it, wondering where on earth my father had got to. Every Saturday morning, he would drive me into the city for my piano lesson. He would drop me off, park the car, take a walk, pick up the car, pick up me, drive home. This morning, distracted, he forgot the pick-up-me part. At home, my mother asked, “Where’s Rosalind?” She told me my father turned on his heel without a word, back through the still-open door, got back into the car, reversed off the driveway. It was fine. I waited maybe an hour. But what if it was not fine? What if he had been picked up on the highway, speeding back to retrieve me? What if one mistake, one miscalculation, one stamp short on his papers meant he had never made it back to his family that day, that week, that year? Old enough to attract the gaze of certain men and women of the city, young enough to mistake the heat in their eyes for kindness, who would have taken me home?
The memories of childhood that raise the surface with their scars are those of separation. My earliest memory comes from a hospital crib. By the dim nightlight, a nurse was reading to a fretful baby. I wanted a story, too, a pretence of home, of comfort. I cried, to let the nurse know. “Shh!” she admonished me. “You’ll wake the others.” Even the kindest of carers can become overwhelmed by the needs of other people’s children overwhelmed themselves by the unfamiliarity of not-home.
What happened to the children left at their daycare centres, their babysitters, as their parents were swept off their jobs, out of their homes? How many out of more than a hundred people arrested in a single ICE raid yesterday left their children wondering where on earth they had got to?
Decades later, as a mother my memory returns to the tearing of the body that bears the child. I shudder at the approach of the scalpel that separates these mothers from their children, tearing her body and soul.
It is easy to get personal about it, but what about policy?
Well, what about it? What kind of policy punishes children for the visa status of their parents? ‘What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge?” As I live, says the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you.’ (Ezekiel 18:2-3)
How can I lead the community in prayer, ‘Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who settest the solitary in families: We commend to thy continual care the homes in which thy people dwell … Turn the hearts of the parents to the children, and the hearts of the children to the parents; and so enkindle fervent charity among us all, that we may evermore be kindly affectioned one to another; through Jesus Christ our Lord’ (Book of Common Prayer, 828-9), then turn around and say, ‘But not you, beloved. By law, your family is forfeit’?
What kind of policy tells the crying child, ‘Your trauma is a deterrent, pour encourager les autres’? When Jesus heard it, he said, ‘Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.”’ (Matthew 9:13)
As long as such a policy is allowed to play out, what will we say, we who trust in the consolation of Christ, of God the Father, the Mothering Spirit; what will we say to the child left wondering where on earth her father has got to?
The Revd Rosalind C Hughes is an Episcopal priest in Euclid, Ohio. A child of adoption and the parent of three grown children, she is interested in the intersection of human family experience and the inclusive theology of the divine Parent and that spirit of adoption. A recently naturalized US citizen, she follows with concern the news of immigration trials and tribulations experienced by others who have made this country their home. Rosalind is a contributing editor at the Episcopal Café, and blogs at over the water.
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