My daughter is late.
I don't worry. Maybe she stopped at some stores on the way home. Maybe she's walking with friends and lost track of time. Maybe she stayed at school late.
But...it's getting later. And she's still not home. It's a short Friday afternoon. She usually comes straight home. I'm still not worried. Not really. But there is that tiny, familiar fear inside me. What if she meant to come straight home, but something happened? What if she's not okay? What if she never even got to school?? My chest feels tight. I imagine the worst.
I call a few friends. They don't know where she is. It's really late now, and I'm worried.
By the time she walks into the house, I am frantic. She doesn't seem to understand why. I'm not sure I understand it, either. I could have thought of a hundred plausible explanations for her lateness. I did. But I also thought of a hundred frightening possibilities.
Because, for some people, those things really happened.
This week marks the first yahrtzeit of Leiby Kletzky.
I spent most of last summer driving my very independent little boy to and from camp. He would not be walking himself anymore. It was too dangerous. There were monsters waiting to prey on little boys who walked home alone. No monster was going to get my little boy. I would make sure of that.
Life goes on. And eventually, I allowed him to walk himself. I needed to let my little boy grow up. It was time.
But something changed for me. I am no longer the same calm, easygoing mother I once was. I worry now. When my little boy walks home himself, I worry. When my kids go swimming, I worry. When they go on school trips, I worry.
Bad things happen. I know that now. Not somewhere out there, to someone I don't know and don't relate to. Right here, to someone in the same camp as my little boy, walking the same route home. And it scares me.
May we soon merit the fulfillment of the prophecy: "I will turn their mourning into joy and will comfort them and make them rejoice from their sorrow"
May Leiby's neshama have an aliya.