“Every parent’s worst nightmare”. That’s what the police have said about the presumed abduction of little April Jones, the 5 year old who seems to have been taken yesterday from the street where she was playing.
I won’t be the only parent to have dropped a fierce kiss on their child’s head on hearing the news, nor the only one to have lifted a sleeping small girl out of bed last night, to hug her close and whisper into her hair.
When we have a child, we carve a piece from our heart and set it to live outside of ourselves. Being a parent means being a hostage to fortune. Beyond the limits of my ability to comfort and protect lie dragons; spectres of illness and accident and harm. Like the monsters of my children’s fears, they lurk in dark corners and quiet moments; but unlike theirs, I cannot banish them with kisses and reason.
How to baffle these malign fates? I can’t paint my children’s faces, to distract malevolent spirits from their beauty. I can’t, despite my faith, light candles and pray to guardian angels. I wonder sometimes if these primeval instincts have transferred to the digital age in the compulsion to forward emails, or retweet links, or “like” Facebook pages which deal with horrors affecting children: a subconscious attempt to placate and divert evil forces in a time when we have lost simpler or clearer beliefs.
Me? I think I hold my luck like water in my hands as I walk, frightened even to gaze too closely at it lest my glance should disturb the reflection. Sometimes the gift of happy, healthy children feels impossibly fragile. So I walk, eyes ahead, trying not to hold too tight.