It had been so long that no one remembers just when it had happened. You’d think an event like this would be clearly recorded in our history, but like the wholesale slaughter of the Native Americans, it’s something those in power would rather forget—in order to feel human, that they’re part of something great.
These little statues appeared everywhere and all at once. There were more in the areas you would expect to find them, at schools, parks, and grocery stores, but there were quite a few that must’ve formed in secret…in backyards and in bedroom windows. Rooted to the very ground upon which they stand, many were tried, unsuccessfully, to be moved, like atrocities from high school, social studies, text books, so we could go back to feeling normal. This just wasn’t going to be the case.
This horrific tableau. These children who were neglected and/or abused simply froze from their grief. Their little hands clenched so tight, fingernails puncturing what was soft, tender skin in their palms, leaving the burgundy dried blood on their hands and in spots on the ground below. The place where their tears had trailed down are now dried up streams, that left behind salt crystals that glitter in the sunlight. Their heads tilted completely back, as if their last action was to look to the heavens, the heavens that had clearly forgotten them, and then scream. Their mouths open as wide as their little jaws would’ve allowed, some almost appearing to open even further, like snakes that dislocate their jaws in order to swallow a much too large piece of suffering.
If this had been the extent of it, then we might have adjusted. We would walk past them as if they were just pieces of furniture, or telephone poles, or some art installation that has been there so long…we don’t even see it anymore. But, again, this was not the case.
We quickly became weather junkies. We’d watch every forecast. The weather man spending the majority of his segment pointing at the proximity of isobars. When those isobars were close together, this rapidly changing pressure gradient, meant wind. People would call into work on windy days more than on days of unrelenting snow fall.
These statues, with their tilted back heads and their mouths agape, resonate when the wind blows, like blowing across the top of a plastic soda bottle. The sound that issues forth from this chorus is so soul-twistingly sad, that the strongest amongst us fall to our knees and sob uncontrollably.
Those that had ones in their open windows, in their back yards, and on their porches…simply moved away out of shame, hoping to start fresh.
There was a period, as the accumulated dirt across their faces, from the residue of long since removed duct tape attests, where we tried to stifle their song. But the very sight of these children, who were silenced in their suffering during their lives, standing their with taped mouths was more than anyone could handle seeing. The tape was quickly removed, but the stripe of dirt across their mouths serves as another reminder.
As bad as all this was—as if this wasn’t enough to show us the error of our ways, we had to explain these statues to our children. Like most children their questions were never ending and built on the last, until it mounted to a crescendo, where we would finally just break down and say, “I don’t know, baby, but we’re better than that now, and it will never happen again,” tears rolling down our faces, as we hug our children tightly. Each child giving the slightest smile and tiniest of nods, as if to say that the lesson has been learned.
Those that tried to use them falsely as a warning to misbehaving children, as if their temper tantrums would lead to this, were met with a implacable, marrow-deep knowledge that this was a lie.
No one knew if this was a one time occurrence, or if more were to come if we stayed on the same path, but some hoped that, if we changed our ways so truly, that these children would come back to us. Even though they were generations old, we would take them in and finish healing them, and ourselves.
We are still waiting.