This morning I had to turn the heat on in my home for one of the first times in many months. The feel of it warming the air brings with it those change of season feelings, like walking through streets filled with fallen leaves used to. Excuse me for a second, because even writing that chokes me up a little. I don’t have streets full of fallen leaves where I live now, but I did once, and I used to walk my children to school through them every morning in the crisp Fall air. It was so beautiful, and the memory of it is even more beautiful and poignant, because one of the children I walked to school then was Michaela.
If you are new to this blog and came here for other reasons, perhaps you don’t know who Michaela is. She is my daughter, my firstborn, and she was kidnapped, the victim of a witnessed stranger abduction, at the age of nine. In a little over a month, it will mark 29 years since that happened, and she has still not been found. (In the menu at the top of this website, you will find a page titled Dear Michaela, which links to a blog I have kept for my daughter for many years, which contains pages detailing all the information about her if you are interested.)
Fall is my favorite season. I love both the seasons of change, Spring and Fall, when the earth takes off one mantle and puts on another, but I prefer Fall because it leads into Winter, with the brisk, chilly weather (I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, so it’s never really cold), and all the really good holidays occur in Fall, from trick or treating for Halloween, to the family gathering together at Thanksgiving, to the delights of Christmas, especially now that I have a little one who will be here on Christmas morning, my two year old grandson, who can be so easily delighted with things that don’t cost a fortune! Then there is New Years, and my birthday on New Year’s Eve, three family birthdays and this year a new granddaughter who is due on December 14th. What wonderful times to look forward to!
But before we can get through all that, we have to pass through November 19th, which is the day my daughter was kidnapped. For many years now I have had a memorial at the site where the kidnapping happened. It is in the parking lot at a mom and pop grocery store. There happens to be a scrubby thing we call a tree that grows right at the spot where the kidnapper parked, and whisked Michaela away from us, into his car. We decorate this sad looking thing every year with yellow ribbons, which are symbolic of the fact that we are still waiting for her to come home. (There is an old song with the lyric, “tie a yellow ribbon ’round the old oak tree if you still want me.”) In recent. years I have tied other color ribbons the tree as well, colors that Michaela would like. It has always been a memorial open to the public, attended by a few stragglers, strangers who love and remember Michaela, and a contingent of the Hayward Police Department, although how many would come now I don’t know, since it feels as though the investigation has dropped off their radar. It had become kind of difficult and stressful for me in recent years. I always felt as though I needed to say something, and I hate to “say something” in general, but more specifically, after so many years I just felt I was running out of things to say. “Thank you for remembering Michaela.” That’s all. There is nothing to report. Nothing new anyway.
There have been years even recently when the case has been red hot and in the spotlight, from the possible association with the Jaycee Dugard case, to the Speed Freak killers, to a bone that was found that could have been Michaela’s, she has been in the news and many people have waited and prayed and hoped for news of the resolution of the case. For years we had an investigator whose heart was in the case, even though his hands were often tied, and who actually formed a relationship with Michaela’s family, trusted me, talked to me like a friend. But he retired a couple of years ago. I have a friend who is a retired lieutenant from our police department, and she has told me that the investigator currently assigned is one of the best investigators we could hope for. But that doesn’t really do any good if his heart isn’t in it, and from what I have seen, I don’t think it is. There are current crimes in Hayward. Gang on gang violence today is more important than a little girl we have lived without for so long now. They probably don’t think she is alive, so what is the big rush to find her? A body that has been sitting for so long will continue to wait until there is nothing else going on in the world, until there is suddenly a windfall of money to spend on an old case. I used to say that Michaela’s case is not a cold case, but I think that now it is. And nobody cares. And nobody cares what I think or what I say. So I have fallen silent. I have certainly had enough going on in my own life, between my own cancer and the trials and tribulations of my family and friends. I admit that I, like the police department, have in recent months put it all in a compartment and closed the door.
But the start of Fall brings it all back. I sit here this morning and cry tears of helplessness, of hopelessness to be honest. I remember my child, and how it felt to hold her in my arms. I remember the bright, sunny smile she had, her loving and hopeful disposition, her depth and talent for writing even at the age of nine. I had longed for Michaela for years before she was born, and had to take fertility pills to have her. She was beyond doubt the most desired baby ever, the most loved, delightful in every way. I was a stay at home mom for most of her life, and I loved every minute of watching her grow and learn and become the spectacular human being she became. Sometimes I drive by the house I lived in when she was born, and I get this feeling that is really hard to put into words. It is sad, but it is angry also, like it was all a lie, the idyllic and beautiful life we had together. Or I guess the lie is that she was given to me, and I thought she was mine, but she wasn’t because someone just came along and stole her away and I never found her again! How can that be possible? Still sometimes I can’t believe it.
I don’t know what I will do this year for the anniversary of Michaela’s kidnapping. My daughter, who lives out of state, is coming to visit the week before, for the baby shower for her brother’s newly expected baby girl. She might be coming the week after for Thanksgiving. I have considered moving the memorial to accommodate her schedule, but I think probably we will just make an extra trip to the market, just me and her, if she would like to. And she probably will. I don’t think she actually remembers Michaela, but she feels she knows her because Michaela has remained so much a part of our family. She was three when Michaela was kidnapped, and not to long ago I found one of the journals Michaela kept as an assignment from school, in which she complained about the fact that Libby wanted to follow her everywhere. Libby adored her big sister, and whether in her conscious memory or not, that adoration still lives in her heart. As an adult, Libby still keeps a yellow ribbon tied to the post outside her front door.
I will let everyone know what is going on before the anniversary, but in the meantime, there is one thing I would ask you to do, whoever you are and wherever you are, and that is to tie a yellow ribbon outside your house in honor of Michaela. I believe Michaela feels your love wherever she is, and I feel it as well. Thank you.