Monday, December 2, 2013

Grandmother Protectors

The Grandmother Protectors 

We'd just returned from a lengthy hike. Sitting down to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, our ears picked up a soft moaning wail. It was a sound that felt strangely misplaced in a California State Park filled with families laughing and happily enjoying summer vacations. We looked around for the source of the sound. Then we saw him.

A little boy with light colored hair stood with the front of his body pressed against a giant Ponderosa pine. The tree dwarfed him. He rubbed his teary eyes through his sobs. My first thought, (rather, it was the one I wanted to believe) was that he was somehow communicating with the tree. We had done the same thing by hugging one of the towering trees earlier on our hike.  But that notion was quickly dispelled. The little boy was being punished. The events that happened over the next thirty minutes not only confirmed it but has left an indelible imprint on my psyche.

His family, a collection of variously aged generations, was eating a well spread out lunch at a picnic table near the tall tree. All of them ignored the child. But we couldn't. After a while his sobs subsided and he began to look around though he never left the tree. Then his mother got up. At last, I thought, she's going to bring him to the picnic table with the rest of the family. But that wasn't her plan. She went to the little boy, slapped him hard across the back, twisted his arm, shoved his face into the tree, and pushed him to his knees. His sobs began again louder than before.

We were stunned by her behavior. But my partner sprang to life, announcing "this is child abuse" and went to get the park ranger. As she strode into the office area the mother went to the restroom near where I was sitting. I decided to confront her when she came out. As I stood in front of her, I noticed her face was splotchy and angry, her hair disheveled, and she seemed tormented. I told her I'd seen how she treated the little boy and surely there must be another way. She replied that she would not tolerate his misbehavior. I asked her what memories she wanted this child to carry into his life - one enjoying a family vacation or the abuse he was suffering at her hands. She stared at me defiantly, assessing how she'd answer. I said "there will come a time when you'll wish to hold this child in your arms instead of smashing him into a tree."

Perhaps realizing there might be trouble brewing, she hurriedly moved away from me. Then I saw the entire family had gathered up their half-eaten lunches and were moving away from the area. Especially now that my partner had arrived with the Park Ranger in tow. Wondering about the little boy, (and secretly hoping they'd left him behind) I noticed his grandmother had retrieved him from the tree and was carrying him away in her arms.

In domestic situations like this something must be done. We confronted the issue by finding the Park Ranger who might be able to help. But there was something more to consider. The mother must have learned that behavior somewhere in her life in order to rain down such punishment on a defenseless child. And sadly, he was going back into that environment no matter what the Park Ranger did.

So we did what we knew to do. Going into the forest, we (two grandmothers) bowed our heads and appealed to the Goddess of the Forest and the Mother Earth Guardian of us all to protect that little boy. We prayed for peacefulness to surround his mother and we asked that his future days be blessed with harmony instead of hatred. We prayed that his own grandmother be there as a safety net while he was growing up.

It's been several months since witnessing that event in the state park. But not a day goes by that I don't think of the little boy crying into the tree. The image stays in my memory as a reminder to continue offering prayers not only for him but for all the children who suffer in this heinous way. And during this month of Thanksgiving I am keenly grateful for all the grandmothers who protect their grandchildren somehow, someway, from all who would harm their innocent souls.

Jo Mooy - November 2013

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