A few decades ago, as a very young and single mother, I would occasionally have panics about how to keep my three young children safe in an emergency; who I would carry, what I would carry. That was even before I read Yael Dayan’s Death Had Two Sons or watched Sophie’s Choice It took me ages to get rid of the pushchair, just in case I needed something to carry children and household goods to flee a burning city. When the children no longer needed pushchairs I bought them a Red Flyer Wagon, and now I wonder whether it was for them or for me. I maybe watched too many war films as a child showed footage of people carrying their lives on prams as they walked forever.
Living in England, in the 20th Century, those were just bad dreams that I never had to live. Today on the television I watch thousands of people living that nightmare, landing on islands soaked to the skin, then travelling for weeks as this weather turns ever more wintry, stuck with no shelter at borders unable to travel to safety, while our government helpfully bombs all their neighbours who could not afford to escape. This photo from Humans of the Refuge struck me today, with that memory of how scared I felt to be responsible for my children, even in a place not at war, with just about enough money to feed and clothe them, if only that. I look at the expressions on the faces of the parents as they try to keep their children safe on such awful, awful journies, and me stomach turns over with thankfulness that my nightmare has not come true. But this morning I lay in my warm dry bed, wondering whether I knew where all our important documents are, and phone chargers, and emergency blankets, and medication and first aid kit, and waterproofs, and walking boots. And what about our photographs, our family histories in albums and boxes that we would not be able to take with us. And I must stop this mental inventory of the contents of our house, and whether to discuss an emergency plan. In the event of anything we rendezvous at the house, or the nearest standing building…
When we are children we believe that we will no longer be powerless once we reach eighteen, once we attain adulthood. Today I sit in my dry, warm, house in England, about to cook food, feeling powerless.
I still have the red flyer wagon in the garage, just in case.