I saw this picture, and it really struck a chord. A deep chord. She’s about the same age as my daughter. My daughter also loves giraffes. She had a pair of giraffe pants once, and would run up to me and point at her pants. “Momma, raf. Look Momma, raf.”
I suffer from really bad nightmares. The kind that leave me sweating and shaking when I wake up. The kind that make me not want to go back to sleep because I know exactly where the dream is going to pick-up again.
I have no idea where these nightmares have come from, but I’ve suffered from them all of my life. I have cut things like scary movies out of my life completely, and I hate the month of October as I have to avoid television and the non-kids side of Netflix.
Perhaps that will shed some light on the nightmarish stories that leapt into my head seeing this.
My father was Catholic, my mother was raised UCC. For various reasons, we worshiped with the Methodist church for the majority of my childhood.
But not all religions believe this is okay. When you lose the separation of church and state, this starts to matter. Really matter. Some countries even criminalize apostasy. Some groups have taken religious affiliation even father. For example, under the Nazis, you would be considered Jewish with as few as one Jewish grandparent. Two Jewish grandparents and you were deported to the death camps.
So where is the story in all of this?
I saw the picture and began imagining a dystopian alternate reality where religious intolerance between the Christian sects has resurfaced. Where my Catholic grandparents are enough to get me and my two girls ripped away from my husband and herded like cattle into refugee camps.
I lose my job. My livelihood. My ability to provide for my family.
My girls lose their home. Their medical care. And their safe and comfortable lives. Instead of my toddler learning her alphabet and my pre-schooler developing her reading skills, we’re struggling just to eat.
As a mother to these two amazing little girls, you know I would give them anything I had, skip my own meals for them. As so many mothers in these horrible situations do. (And yes, I know this maternal sacrifice sounds cliche. I can’t tell you how hard I rolled my eyes about this before I had kids. But it’s real, oh so real.)
How long can you face the hunger, the fear on your little ones’ faces, and the bleak future offering you nothing? How long can you hear the horror stories of children taken in the night for nefarious reasons, and there being nothing you can do to get them back or protect them?
Then you hear of this magical place called Quebec where it’s okay if you’re Catholic. Where you can live in peace. Where you can work again so your daughters can eat.
What would you do to get there?
Damned near anything.
After doing whatever must be done to get the fare, you can finally afford passage across Lake Superior and into the land of Canada.
You board the ship, only to have those magical Canadians sink it because you can’t come there. See, there have been others who came there who commit acts of terror. So now you’re banned. Even though all you wanted was to feed your children.
The nightmare gets worse.
In the sinking of the ship, you’ve lost both your daughters. The two things you had left to live for, the two little faces you went hungry for so their tummies would be a little more full.
You’ve literally lost everything. Your spouse. Your home. Your children. You’re staring down the black maw of existential despair when a man whispers to you that you can have revenge. You can get even with those that killed your children and took away your hope. Those that have everything while you have nothing. And if you do this thing, he guarantees you that you’ll be reunited with your children in heaven.
Your sacrifice will make sure you and your girls are reunited with God.
I want to say that I am cynical enough to see through such nonsense. That I wouldn’t listen to the lies.
But that’s easy to say with a full stomach, wearing clean clothes, and sitting in my warm home with a computer on my lap.
I honestly don’t know what I’d do. I don’t think anyone does until they’re standing there facing it.
But I do know this. There is almost nothing I wouldn’t do to protect my little girls. I can’t imagine there are many mothers, many parents, that don’t feel that way.
My thoughts then took another turn.
Perhaps my daughters survive the sinking of the boat, but now there is no hope. There is no magical Quebec for us. There is nowhere you can go, nothing you can do. You stare at your children’s tired, hopeless faces. Faces that used to be filled with love and happiness reflect only despair.
Your stomachs are always empty. You’re always cold. Always tired. And when your little ones cry, you can do nothing but hold them. You can’t even promise them things are going to get better because they can see through your lies.
Again the evil man comes to you.
But now he offers you a deal.
You do this thing for him, this horrible thing, and it purges the “evil” from you and your daughters. They get to go home to their father. They get back the life that was taken from them. They will be fed. They will be warm. They will be safe.
Would I give my life for my little girls? Just the image of them cold, hungry and scared makes me cry genuine tears. You know I would.
Would I take the lives of others for my little girls? I want to say no. I want to believe I wouldn’t. But I don’t know. My daughters have never gone to bed hungry because I couldn’t feed them. They’ve never gone to bed cold because there was no roof over their head. They’ve never gone to bed scared because I couldn’t protect them.
Whatever choices the powers-that-be make, I hope they understand the overwhelming love between a parent and a child. I hope they understand what we’d do, the lengths we’d go, for them. I hope they understand this and can find a way to keep out the bad but offer a sanctuary for those who just want to see their kids fed, clothed, and happy.
What about you? Ever think of dystopian alternate realities? Ever lay awake worried about your kids? Grandkids? If you don’t have kids, maybe you worry about nieces or nephews? Or maybe you just sleep very peacefully and now understand why my over-active imagination makes it impossible for me to read horror?