Friday, October 23, 2009

If You Go Down To The Woods Today...

When I was 11 years old I saw my first penis. It was from a distance but it was very much alive. I was at the park with my best friend where we had planned to meet our boyfriends who were essentially friends that happened to be boys. You know, in between games of tag we would hold hands and talk about WWF. Knowing that it was a little risque we had decided to go into the wooded area, slightly off the beaten path, to build up the courage to exchange our first kiss. After about 20 minutes of giddiness my best friend and I agreed to let the boys kiss us after the count of 3. Just as we were about to pucker up we heard someone coming. Even though we were doing nothing wrong we knew we weren't supposed to be there. I mean, this wasn't something we would be sharing around the family table that evening. A man came into view with a dog. We shushed each other and hoped the brush around us would cover us enough to be out of his view. Thinking he would pass, I remember that holding my boyfriend's hand was making my heart beat faster than the sight of this man. He didn't pass. In fact, he decided to tie up his dog to a nearby tree. He then began to remove his clothing. We couldn't believe it! We were looking at each other, giggling that this man was oblivious to our presence. The man, a graying figure in his 40s had arrived wearing slacks and a shirt. He now stood 10 feet away from us stark naked. I then remember feeling embarrassed not for myself but for the man. We began whispering through our giggles that we should leave but I said that I didn't want him to see us and feel awkward. I thought we should wait it out. Perhaps he needed to pee...naked? The man then reached down and pulled out of his pants pocket some suntan lotion. OK, so it was summer...however, we were in England...and it was overcast. In fact, my mum had made me wear a thin, navy blue anorak because the sky had been threatening rain. Not to mention that we were in a darkened, wooded area. Not really an opportune tanning spot.
Of course, you can guess what was coming (!) and where that lotion was applied. We were no longer laughing. In fact, we were very much four 11 year old children. We looked at each other, again counted to 3 and then up and ran. We ran and ran and kept running, didn't look back, and went straight through the park back onto the road, in the sunlight. Ahh, the safe sunlight. We didn't talk until we had stopped running and calmed ourselves into a brisk walk. At first we wondered whether to go straight to the police, to immediately tell our parents, what should we do...? The further we walked, the funnier it became. We wondered if in fact he hadn't seen us. It became more dreamlike, more exciting. We decided that it should become our secret and we gave it a codeword of 007 - because it felt like something out of a Bond movie. That logic makes no sense now but we thought we were brilliant.
Of course, when we returned to school after the summer we told anyone that would listen. We were legends!
We didn't however tell our parents. Nor did we didn't tell the police. Why? Because that would have involved explaining why we were sitting in the woods and that was more scary to us than the threat of a predator. Ahh, how a child's mind works...

This morning I awoke to the story of Somer Thompson.
Her 10-year-old sister told police that Somer had gotten into a fight with another girl at school earlier in the day. The sister said she brought up the fight while she and her brother walked Somer home from school, and that Somer ran off from them, apparently upset. According to the police report the sister said she lost sight of Somer in a group of other kids leaving the school. Her body was found in a landfill yesterday.

Her incredibly strong mother was interviewed this morning and when asked what she would say to other parents she talked of two things.
1) To teach your child about 'stranger danger'.
2) To take an extra two seconds to tell your child you love them because you never know what the day will hold.

Now, my daughter is 8 months old and her whereabouts is still in my hands. I can talk to her about being cautious around new people and not to assume that any stranger is safe. I can teach her to stay on the beaten path. That there are wicked people everywhere and sadly, not always strangers.
However, remembering that experience reminded me that as a child I would feel everything first. Emotion would totally overrun thought. I was actually more concerned about that stranger feeling embarrassed rather than thinking about my own danger. I can tell you that I knew of "stranger danger" but it didn't occur to me that this (at first) 'normal' looking stranger, that could have passed for a teacher, that didn't pull up in a car asking for directions, that wasn't offering me sweets, was in fact a "dangerous stranger" Stupid? Perhaps. Naive? Maybe. Childlike. Yes.

Whatever the details, whatever took Somer off the beaten path we may never know.
Today, however, I'm going to heed the words of a mother that does know and take two extra seconds to love on my little and big ones. To honor those parents with empty arms tonight.

Rest in peace, little one.


  1. somer's mommy broke my heart on GMA this morning. broke it right in two.

  2. Oh wow! I think we all have one of those memories that we are kind of ashamed of even now!

    I have an award for you! Come by my blog to pick it up!

  3. Oh my. :( That breaks my heart for Sommer and just thinking of ya'll in that situation breaks my heart as well. It's hard not to run away and hide with your kids forever. (((Hugs)))

  4. Wow.....My prayers are with her family.....What is this world comin to i ask?
    Thanks for stopping by my blog...have a great weekend:)

  5. I think every mother everywhere was so saddened by the tragic story of little Somer. It's every parents worst nightmare, and I think we all just feel our hearts rend for her sweet family. What a tragedy, hopefully we all hugs our little ones (and big ones) a little closer . . .


  6. so sad. we had a2 yr old child go missing in our country a few weeks ago and she was later found dead (although no stranger danger had been involved after all) but it had us all on our toes and appreciating our families. such a tragedy that parents endure this type of thing. It makes me grimace as i type this.

    on a lighter note you had me on the edge of my seat at the first part of your post! eeeeewwww!!

  7. Well, it is sooo sooo sad that things like that happen to our precious children.
    It breaks my heart.
    And I absolutly can relate to the mother and I've given the same advice to other parents.

    "Never miss a oppertunity to tell your child your love him/her. Or miss a chance to sneek a hug, kiss, or even a wiff of their hair.

    You never ever know...if the next moment will be robbed from you.

    And don't sweat the small stuff.

    I speak from my heart...and experience.

  8. I was following this story and it just broke my heart to hear the conclusion. I just don't understand some people.

    On another note, the beginning story you used caught my attention, lol! I sent you an award, please check out my blog!

  9. do your parents now know about the story?

    i am following from MCB and jennys page.

  10. So Sad!!!! I was friends with a little boy who went missing as a child and we (kids) were the last ones to see him. The guilt you feel and carry is unabound.
    I am here to follow you thru MBC!
    Oh, I almost forgot congratulations on being a mommy!!!


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