I had a treat the other day. Trina came to visit! Some people were out here doing a documentary for the A&E network, and they wanted to interview Trina, so they flew her into the Bay Area and interviewed her at our house. Over the years since your kidnapping, I haven’t seen much of her. Her family moved around some. She came back to town to graduate from Logan High School. I remember that time keenly, because I’d drive by Logan and see their marquis talking about the activities for seniors and the graduation ceremonies, and every time I did I’d think about Trina being there, walking across the stage and receiving her diploma … and you not being there. Of all the little things over the years that you missed, that was one that really hit me particularly hard.
Anyway, then Trina went away to college to Southern California, and then out of state, and she ended up staying out of state. I tried to find her, but she’d gotten married and I didn’t know her married name, or what state she lived in, so I hadn’t been able to. But eventually she found me, on myspace. I was really so happy to hear from her. You know, I love Trina. She is also a connection for me to you, although I realized the other day that we’ve never had one of those conversations. She’s had a really hard time over the years, with feeling guilty about the fact that you were kidnapped and she was not. She said the other day that when she was a child she used to think she should have been the one kidnapped instead of you, because she saw you as a “girly girl” and fragile, while she saw herself as more of a tomboy. I’m not sure I agree with her. You were girly, for sure, but you were so strong. After you were kidnapped, there was a song by Twila Paris called “The Warrior is a Child” which always reminded me of you. Smart, strong, possessing an incredible spirit. That was you. That is you, if only you remember it.
Because it is so difficult for her, I have never really talked to Trina about the events of that day. Except for second hand snippets, I’d never really heard her describe your kidnapping until the other day when they asked her about it in the interview. I don’t know why, but for some reason I was unaware of your screaming. For some reason, I thought perhaps the kidnapper had put his hand over your mouth or something. Must have been one of those awful re-enactments people did afterwards, with actresses who looked nothing like you and acted nothing like you. But Trina described your scream as the man grabbed you and put you in his car. She said you were kicking your legs. I know how hard you were fighting, Michaela. And I feel so sad, so very sad, because I feel as though we let you down because we were not able to find you.
The film crew also asked Trina to describe you, and that took me back as well. The things she said took me back, right to you, to some of the things I’d almost forgotten. She said you loved to dance, and I’d forgotten that about you — probably because you are the only one of my children who loved to dance. And this made me think about how different life might have been for all of us if you hadn’t been taken away. If you had stayed, perhaps your sisters would have danced, because you would have danced with them. Trina and I were looking at some photos of you, and you have your hair up and curled. I commented that here we are, 21 years later, and nobody else in the family has ever really mastered the use of a curling iron, but that you, at age nine, could handle one like a pro. That, too, you might have passed on. So many little things, but most of all that spirit of yours, so outgoing, so cheerful. We have all gone on in life, and we have even learned to be happy, but there is no question that there is a sadness that settled like a mist over us all when we lost you. If you had not been taken away from us, we not only would not have felt the touch of that mist, but we would have had the warmth of your sunny, happy personality.
The film crew also asked about hope. They asked me about hope, and I told them that yes, I do have it, but I also told them how difficult it is to hold onto hope, what a heavy burden it is to have hope that goes on unfulfilled day after day after month after month after year after year. And it is heavy. Then they asked Trina the same question, and she said that someone had once asked her why she would “do that to herself,” why she would burden herself with hope after so long And she answered that it was worth it, because it would be so much more awful if you turned out to be alive and she had given up on you.
And that is the thing. This is why we hold onto hope — not for ourselves, but for you, not because it feels good, not because it is easier, but because we love you so much. I go back, keep remembering how I never let you cry yourself to sleep when you were a baby, because I never wanted you to be afraid or lonely — I always wanted you to feel yourself to be safe and surrounded with love. Well, you have gone to places where you could not feel safe, and there was nothing I could do about that. But across the miles and across the years, that love still surrounds you. I used to tell you that if ever you were hurt or scared and I wasn’t there, that all you had to do was touch your heart and you would feel me there. That never stopped being true. I am still there. We are still there. It’s not even only me, not only your family and friends and people who knew you. There is now a virtual army of people out there who love you. Open your heart and feel it flood in and strengthen you, Michaela.
And then please, please come home, so that I can hold you in my arms once again. I miss you.
I love you.