We all have dark days we mark on our mental calendars. Anniversaries aren’t meant to be only celebrations. Sometimes they’re observed as the days of tragedy.
Tomorrow marks the fourth anniversary I sat in a courtroom with a domestic violence advocate and a police officer at my side.
Ironically, it was my birthday that day. I had just turned 40. In a strange way, it felt as if it were a death day. I haven’t celebrated my birthday since 2010 the way others would want to celebrate. It was ominous and dreadful to me. An anniversary of a dark time. A remembrance of plague.
This year I tried it differently. I celebrated my birthday a few days early. The intent was to redirect my mind and be joyous that I’m alive. We had a relaxed party with a handful of close friends and relatives, cake, Easter egg painting and a roaring fire.
I can’t say the joy was as sweet as I wanted it to be, for my child took her mads out on her bicycle as a guest arrived- leaving bits of basket scattered, and banging her dancer’s ankle to bluish. She was so angry, but couldn’t figure out what she was angry about. She blamed it on the bicycle and so proceeded to kick and scream at it until it fell over despite the training wheels. She hid behind a tree, sobbing. She didn’t know what was wrong. She just knew something was.
I never really asked the guest how he perceived the incident, for one minute she was smiling and riding near his car, the next minute she was gone and there was an angry child. I never asked him how much he saw of the pink bicycle being beaten up. I never asked him if he saw me drop everything and run to where she stopped. I never asked if he saw me approach her slowly with outstretched hands, or saw me get down on one knee several feet from her.
I knew better than to grab her. That escalates her and she runs. She taught me the hard way to give her time to make sense of what’s happening.
She was lividly rigid, unable to speak coherently, cheeks pink, nostrils flaring. This is the child others rarely see. I wish I could say I was completely calm. Maybe on the outside I seemed to be, but inside I was frightened.
Once the rage calmed and she came back to center, she clung to me for a long time, and I held her with love. I carried her into the safe house. She was crying, so frightened of how she’d behaved and if her bicycle would ever forgive her.
She hadn’t quite forgiven herself- but bound and determined, she jumped back on that bike later after we collected the broken parts and she rode it the rest of the evening.
I suspect for her this time is a dark anniversary, when everything she thought she knew turned upside down. We seem to go through our cycles together around this time of year.
I was hoping maybe things would be different for her if it were different for me. We collectively share the dark anniversaries, yet we are unique in our ways of handling our feelings. As old as I feel, sometimes it seems like I should have tenure to control how she feels or what she thinks.
But, as young as she is, her feelings are valid. As young as she is, she has the right to express her feelings- however dark and angry. I have no control over her feelings, perceptions, or her thoughts. I have no control over what happened.
But I won’t lie. I wish I could snap my fingers and whisk away the pain she doesn’t understand.