It’s 11:30 and, for once this month, I feel like I’ve actually accomplished something in the time my daughter has been sleeping. I’m just shutting down the computer, dreaming of a fairly early night when I hear her whines down the hall.
I’ll be honest – usually, the moment I hear that first cry or whine, my immediate reaction is to roll my eyes and whisper, “Oh, Alice.” A year ago, my first reaction was to burst into tears myself. But tonight? I am eager to hold her, to rock her, to stick my nose in the crook of her neck and feel her light breathing in my ear.
Tonight, I have had my heart on Paris, on the Syrian refugees people want to keep out of our country, on the children that died as we bombed ISIS. Tonight, I feel the pain of those mothers so viscerally that I feel nauseous. And even then, I know that I’m not feeling an ounce of what they are.
Tonight, I hold my girl in my arms and force myself to imagine us as refugees fleeing a very real hell. I think about holding her against my chest, hoping she’ll sleep through the explosions and the gunshots and the screams. I see us running, always running, and the exhaustion creeping over my shoulders and neck and arms like a heavy coat, unable to keep my eyes open any longer, but unable to let them close, to let my guard down for one second while my baby is near.
Tonight, I rock my daughter in her nursery, the warm glow of the hallway light filtering under the door and force myself to imagine us seeking refuge here in America, the golden land of opportunity, the home that was created by immigrants, the country that boasts a statue with the inscription, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” And then I force myself to imagine what it would be like to be turned away from such a safe place. To have people group me in with mass murderers, terrorists, soul-less, evil beings that have committed acts I cannot even fathom. I imagine people turning away me, my baby girl, and telling us that they won’t help us, that we are on our own. Tonight, I cry into the soft hair of my girl, just like I did a year ago in the same room. Back then, I was a broken woman, shattered with the word “divorce”, and barely holding it together. I held my baby, begged her to sleep, and cried over what I thought was a tragedy. People told me I was admirable, that I had strength my daughter would be proud of, that I was a strong woman capable of anything.
But tonight, I know I am nothing compared to these Syrian mothers. The mothers that watched a toddler, one that might’ve played with their own children, wash up on the shore. The mothers that can barely breathe as they hear that the United States of America doesn’t want to help them or their children. The mothers that watched 100 children die in bombings, bombings they know nothing about and want no part of.
Those are the mothers that are strong. Those are the admirable ones, the ones with strength we should be proud of.
And tonight, all I want is to let them all into my home, to put their babies in the crib with mine, and let all of them be rocked to sleep.