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.