Kids come and go…eventually they all grow up and no longer require a babysitter and then we get new kids. I figured I had about another six or seven years with Josie before I had to seriously worry about her not wanting me around anymore. It was bad enough that she could walk and didn’t want me to carry her around anymore. “No, Lauren, I do…I do.” she would say when she was learning to climb up and down the stairs.
You can’t help but feel a swell of pride, followed by a twinge of heartache as you come to the sad realization that eventually, they won’t need you anymore.
Josie’s parents would often ask me to sit for them when personal or business obligations went past my mother’s normal operating hours and I was happy to oblige. I remember she was always so excited because each time I came over, we would bake something completely new. She was always great at testing the icing:
And then Josie’s father took a job in Pennsylvania…and suddenly my time with her was limited.
I had six months to prepare for Josie’s departure. The day I found out I cried for about six hours. I mean, I knew this day would come, I just didn’t think it was going to happen this soon.
No one was more surprised at my reaction than my mother. “I thought you hated kids,” she’d laugh as I sulked.
“I do hate kids,” I would say, “but she is my meatball.”
I decided to plan a special day for us – I’d take her to the movies and to get her nails done, we would grab lunch and I’d color her hair a little. We decided to call it Princess Day – although she later told me that everyday was Princess Day since she is a princess – god she kills me lol.
We were on our way back from the movies – we had just seen Frozen and she was asking me if we could build a snowman like Olaf. I promised we would try the next time it snowed. And then everything changed…
It’s amazing how imminent death can happen in the blink of an eye, yet approaching that moment seems to last a lifetime. I saw Josie in my rear view mirror – giggling and laughing…excited to get her nails done. I saw the woman from two lanes over, French tips on her nails, huge rock on her finger, cell phone glued to her ear. The reason I could see “Michael Kors” on her sunglasses is because she wasn’t looking at me – she wasn’t looking at anyone.
I slammed on the brakes and put the full weight of my body onto the horn. The woman had cut me off so that both of us could come to a halt at a red light – and no one was behind me.
In that moment, I heard Josie let out a scream – a scream that haunts me till this day. You see, a child’s scream is from fear – but it’s not because Josie knows that two cars crashing is bad…it’s not because she understands that there is a chance she can be physically harmed. It’s because she thinks I can’t protect her…because she thinks she’s not safe…and I never want that to be a thought she has.
I put the car in park and opened the back door to make sure she was okay before unbuckling her from the car seat and banging on the woman’s window. She looked flabbergasted and annoyed, but rolled down the window nonetheless.
“Josie, earmuffs.” I said.
As she put her hands over her ears, I screamed, “WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU WERE DOING? I’VE GOT A GOD DAMN KID IN THE CAR! A KID! LOOK AT HER!” I screamed, putting Josie closer to the window. “Do you have children? Do you drive like that with your children in the car?! You could have killed us! You could have killed her! Would you be able to live with yourself if you killed her?!”
The woman apologized a million times – I could see she felt genuinely sorry. However, if something had happened, no amount of sorrys would have been able to ease the pain of Josie being hurt…or worse. I got back into my car and pulled over in the local Starbucks and had to give myself a minute to calm down.
“Don’t cry, Lauren,” Josie said happily from the backseat, “I am okay.”
I have loved before. There are people in my life that I told myself I’d die for if need be. But it was in that moment that I truly knew what it meant to love another person – to fear for someone’s safety…to be unable to live without them. It was in that moment, I got a taste of what it would be like to be a parent…which is why I hate people like Amy Glass.