When I was young, so young that I’m unsure of what age I was, I remember going to look at the gilt birdcages in a store. There was something about them that drew me to them, perhaps the simple fact of their colour and the way they shone in the light, but I was entranced by them. I was so focused on them that I lost my mum in the shop.
It wasn’t for very long and it wasn’t that terrible, but it has lingered in the back of my consciousness well into my adulthood. That sense of loss and fear in that moment, that perhaps that walking away from her might have been the last contact I might ever have with her.
Little moments like that, those insignificant things, make us who we are. It might not be forever, but each of us are composed of thousands of those moments. Some of them are weighted more heavily than others and some last much longer than we’d like.
As an adult, there are people that I’ve had no contact with in years that I have no forgiveness for. The rage that they inspired is not an inferno, but it simmers ever on, just below the surface and it would only take a small disturbance to make them catastrophic. There are children from school that I cannot forget, adults that I’d like to, and moments that I wish hadn’t happened.
As adults we often forget that we were once children. That those moments we worried about as children shape the fears we keep with us. The big and the little ones. The fear of the dark, the fear of storms, the fear of being alone, the fear of being abandoned.
We forget. Because we tell ourselves that children have it easy. That their problems are so much less significant than ours. That they’re things we overcame to become adults. That we aren’t worried about them now. But that’s not true, we’re still that child. The core of the fear is still there and we still hold on to it because it’s been a part of us for so long.
We just hide it better now.
We even hide it from ourselves.
There is nothing in this world that excuses cruelty to children. Semantics doesn’t make the truth less ugly and noone will forget. Not this. Not now. The world has learnt its lesson.
Then again perhaps I’m willfully naive, believing that an open hand fixes more problems than a closed fist does. That the answer to problems isn’t to shut the door on them, but rather to face them openly.
I once lost my mum because I was enraptured by a gilt birdcage, but I can’t imagine the horror of losing her by being forced into one.