I was four years old when I was taken from my mother. It was surprising how vividly I remembered the day, despite trying to forget it…and every day since. I remember the way my ankle bones bounced off each other, my legs wrapped around my mom’s waist. The strong yet tender way her arms wrapped around mine. The blur of green that passed under her bare feet as she ran across the field at the back of the Big House. How beautiful and celebratory the flashing red lights edging the house from the other side looked.
There were at least a dozen of us. Other moms. Other kids. Except for John, Jr. I remember thinking how strange it was that he wasn’t with us. Aside from Father, he was the only other boy in the house.
People appeared on either side of our home. Dressed in black, they looked like ants as they entered the field. Freeze, they shouted over and over as they ran toward us. Some of the kids stumbled. Some of the moms did as they were told. But my mom kept running, telling me it would all be okay, her voice raspy and spent. And I believed her.
Now, tugging at the skirt of the dress my husband told me to wear, it hit me how wrong my mom had been. And how deeply rooted those first lessons of what it meant to be a woman were. Despite being placed in foster care and adopted out, I had somehow still become her. Even down to falling for and marrying a man named John. Shame sliced me through the gut. I had never once tried to stop the fall as I tumbled into a cult of one.
Memories whisked me away from the loud, crowded bar where I was surrounded by John’s friends. Taken back to that day I felt the warm air against my cheeks. The smell of the sun meeting the blades of grass in the field. The beating of my mom’s heart against my chest.
She ran because she never knew she was a prisoner. At least not until it was too late. But I knew. For her, for me. I knew.
John dug his fingers into the fat of my arm, snatching me close to ask through clenched teeth why I was smiling. But I was enveloped in a calm I’d never known as the field came back into view. It beckoned me toward freedom. It filled with a sunny glow and informed me that I had a choice. I had a chance.