birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Not Forgotten

I was horrified, humiliated and filled with self-loathing. I had forgotten to pick up my young daughter after dance class at Miss Carole’s. I do not remember the circumstances leading up to this egregious parental lapse. Perhaps there was a faculty meeting that ran long. Or maybe a journalistic glitch on the high school newspaper I advised. Maybe I simply got engrossed grading a set of essays. I do have an unusually strong power of concentration which can be both a boon and a bane.

Whatever the cause, there is no excuse short hospitalization in a shock-trauma unit for leaving one’s own flesh and blood, barely-out-of-toddlerhood child stranded on the sidewalk outside the dance studio long after all her classmates had waved good-by and disappeared in the custody of their dutiful moms. The good mothers. The mothers not like me.

I still cringe at the memory and my daughter is now 41. I imagine her at first feeling bored and restless. Where is Mom? Then fighting back a bit of anxiety. WHERE is Mom? Anxiety morphs into fear. What am I going to do? I am here alone. Where is MOM?

She is tired, hungry, cranky, irritated, annoyed, frightened. Where IS Mom? What if she doesn’t come and it gets dark? What if there’s been a wreck. What if she just FORGOT me? WHERE IS MOM? Anxiety and anger play teeter-totter while fear of abandonment lurks in the shadows.

Today’s forgotten child would probably pull out a cell phone and fire off a text. Where R U? But this was 1981. Cell phones still belonged in science fiction.
Luckily for all of us, Nicole found someone to call her father whose office was just a few blocks away. Like the proverbial knight on a stead, he drove swiftly and dependably to her rescue.

Why didn’t she just call you, one might ask? Oh, dear reader, just as there were no cell phones in the dark age of 1981, there were no telephones on teachers’ desk, and the school office and district switchboard were locked down tight by 4 p.m.

When I arrived home, still blissfully ignorant of my major mess-up, Nicole’s anxiety and panic had disappeared. But her sense of abandonment and righteous rage had ballooned. She was royally pissed.
Sometimes I fear that was a permanent turning point in our relationship. That after experiencing my abandonment, if only for a few minutes as a young child, she will never be able to trust me again. Perhaps somewhere deep in her psyche lurks a dark grudge with purple bloodshot eyes and a serpent’s poison whisper. Maybe she has never forgiven me.

I know I haven’t forgiven myself.

I Forgot to Catch a Plane

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words