Monday, August 4, 2008

Where Are The Children?

by Julia Buckley
I remember that title--Where Are the Children--was the first suspense novel I ever read by Mary Higgins Clark. I was riveted to the story because children were in jeopardy, and I desperately wanted them to be reunited with their mother.

When I had children of my own, my worst fear, especially when they were babies, was that they would be kidnapped or that I would somehow lose them and put them in jeopardy--that someone out there in the unknown world would find them and hurt them. Mothers, after all, read the newspapers, the magazine accounts, the true crime stories, of children who are victimized. When I brought my first son home and would sometimes fall asleep nursing him, I would have bad dreams suggesting I'd forgotten my infant somewhere. I'd wake up with a jolt, saying, "Where's the baby?"

"In your lap," my husband responded, his face suggesting that I'd brought a touch of insanity back from the hospital. But that was how it went when both of my sons were tiny. Once I had a dream that our family went to the mall; I set the baby's carrier down in the mall parking lot, then went into the mall without him. When the realization hit me (in dream world)--I was horrified. I'd left a tiny, defenseless baby all alone. Anyone could have walked off with him.

In another dream I forgot my oldest child (then four) when we went on a trip, and in my rearview mirror I saw him chasing after our car, as fast as he could run, and I was remorseful that I'd abandoned and frightened him that way. It was my worst fear--that something would make me acknowledge the smallness, the vulnerability of my children--but perhaps it was necessary. It kept me ever vigilant, ever alert in the real world. I'm still that way, even now that my oldest is a sarcastic thirteen. Sure, he can hold his own in a battle of wits, but he's still my baby, and there are things he doesn't know about the world, and I'm going to protect him for as long as I can.

And THAT is why I have trouble believing the story of this woman, Casey Anthony, whose three-year-old daughter Caylee was missing for a full month before Casey reported it to the police. In her accounts to the police she has lied consistently, and I see no instinctive mother's fear about where her tiny daughter might be. If you listen to the 911 calls in the link, you hear Anthony's MOTHER, Cindy Anthony, asking the police to arrest her daughter Casey (although the mother has now changed her story, and insists her daughter is innocent), because the car Casey Anthony stole from her own parents smelled like a dead body.

What bothers me the most about this young woman, who is now in custody, is her utter lack of fear for her child. Listen to Casey Anthony's voice on the second 911 call (after her mother hands her the phone). Where is the fear? Where is the anguish at what might have happened to the toddler in a month away from home? This mother has the same lack of authenticity that Susan Smith had when it became clear, to the police and to America, that something was not right about her account of how her two little boys came to be missing.

Knowing how the Smith case turned out back in 1994 makes me worry for little Caylee, missing from a mother who didn't seem that eager to find her--unless, like Smith, she knew where her daughter was all along.

I once lost my three-year-old son at a baby shower in a church hall. He was missing for a maximum of about ten minutes--maybe less--until we found he'd wandered into a far corner of the hall, behind a curtain, and was playing there. In that time I had an eternity to envision what might have happened to him. The church was on a busy Chicago street, and if my son had wandered outside--it didn't bear thinking about. I was in tears, begging every party guest to look for little Ian, which they did. He was found, he was fine, and he had no idea he'd caused me any grief.

The notion that a child could be gone for an entire month tells me that there is much more to this story that the public doesn't know, and I fear it will have a very sad ending.


She-Ra, Princess of Power said...

Yes, yes, yes and amen to what you have written.

I have visited dozens of blogs on the subject of Caylee Marie Anthony and realize that I am not alone in my obsession.

The case has captivated America, captured our attention and outrage, ignited fury.


Because the Caylee Marie Anthony case is The Perfect Storm of homicides.

It is so like a movie that a film version could not properly capture the weirdness...and horribleness...of the actual situation.

To begin, the victim is an innocent, beautiful little girl, much beloved, it seemed, during her short life.

The suspect (or person of interest, as cops like to say these days because the word suspect is evidently too harsh) is a character one encounters only rarely -- a self-centered pathological liar, an arrogant, irresponsible young woman...who also happens to be the child's mother.

And, oh, failed to report her missing.

Because, as it is becoming clear now, she never was technically missing.

That report was filed by the Queen Bee of all stupid and irritating supporting actresses: Cindy Anthony. More about her later.

But our BEST ACTRESS/person of interest is not poor or fat or ugly or on welfare.

Instead, she is a well-groomed young woman who looks like half of the young women on any American college campus.

Behaves like them too.

Likes to go out partying.



Dropping x.

Going some girl-on-girl for the camera.

Casey Anthony is totally like so many college-age girls except for one remarkable detail: she has a child whom she somehow...lost.

And didn't report.

And doesn't seem especially concerned about.

And has no trouble spinning a web of fantastical lies about.

And is defended only by her parents who have zero credibility and somehow insist on going through the charade of leading a search for a living Caylee.

They are worthy of their own movie. Dumb and dumber.

The blabbermouth who ONLY wears sleeveless tanks or the ex-cop who knows more than he's saying

And the brother. Pained. Quiet. Concentrated. Tormented.

And they are all semi-literate, incapable of completing a choherent convesation.

Here's the bottom line: every caring parent -- or sane person -- in the world recognizes the GUILT of Casey Anthony inherent in her nonchalance regarding Caylee's whereabouts.

We can argue over details, but Casey's demeanor in the face of Caylee's alleged missing-status tells us everything we need to know.

This is not a whodunnit, but a whydshedoit and a howsshedoit.

Julia Buckley said...

She-ra, I think you know much more about the details of the case than I do, but I agree that this is a tragedy--I'm always horrified when a child is missing.

caryn said...

This sort of case just leaves me too sad to even comment.
Caryn in St. Louis

Julia Buckley said...

I know what you mean, Caryn. When I hear something like this, though, the obsessive part of me doesn't let me stop thinking about it.

I would make a terrible cop, because I'm sure they face frustrating cases like this all the time, and I just wouldn't be able to stand it.

Lonnie Cruse said...

I hate to say it but the worry about children doesn't stop when they are adults, able to care for themselves. Why? Because they give you grandchildren to worry about. Yes, they are grand fun, but you still worry.

Great post, Julia. I'm following this case too. There was one like it many years ago in our area. A mom claimed her 4 year old was kidnapped but later it was suggested she either gave or sold her to a couple who do not need to have the care of children. Grrrr.

Sandra Parshall said...

People who abuse or murder children -- often their own children -- are beyond my understanding. I don't think I want to understand them. I don't want to get inside those particular minds.

Now and then we hear about a child being rescued after years with a kidnapper/molester. Those stories always raise heartbreaking questions: How the abused child ever hope to be "normal" again? How can an ordinary family deal with the consequences of the child's imprisonment and abuse? How many other missing children are out there somewhere, held captive and subjected to years of unrelenting abuse, while their families mourn and wonder what happened to them?

Julia Buckley said...

You're right, Lonnie. I'm sure the worry gene will be intact forever. :)

Sandra, you are just right, and that's why I literally lose sleep over stuff like this. I haven't yet recovered from the news of the Austrian girl imprisoned by her father for twenty-some years. (Or the Austrian girl discovered imprisoned two years before that). Some stories just make you think--what is going on out there that I could help prevent? Or is there any way to prevent it?

Amanda Dill said...

I hadn't heard much about this case...but I do remember reading about a somewhat similar case in Houston, TX. Except in that case, the mother AND father knew their infant had died due to neglect--their response was to wrap the child, place it in a duffel bag and stash the child in their deep freeze. A freezer they used often. Even ate from. I almost vomited when I read it.

And no one questioned the child's disappearance until nearly a year later.

In my opinion, anyone who harms a child is beyond sick.

Julia Buckley said...

Here, here, Amanda. That is simply atrocious. These people are aberrant--exceptions to the natural bonding process--which puts their children immediately in danger.