I was talking today with some people about the fact that the 30th anniversary of Michaela’s kidnapping is coming up in just a few month. I talked to at least one person who lives out of state who is thinking about coming this year, and it has me thinking about changing things up a bit.
For years now I have held the anniversary remembrance on the anniversary, at the approximate time of the kidnapping, at the exact location where Michaela was taken. For this year, that would be the Monday of Thanksgiving week, November 19th, at 10:15 a.m., in the parking lot of Mexico Super in Hayward. This venue has been important to me, because there is a little bushy evergreen tree right in front of the spot where Michaela’s kidnapper had parked his car. Every year we tie ribbons on that tree. At first they were all yellow, although over time I have put other colors into the mix as well. I tied some on, as did everyone who came to the anniversary. And there those ribbons stand, year after year. We do not remove the old, tattered ribbons before hanging the new ones. Bundled there together, in varying stages of freshness or decay, they were a beautiful, visible symbol of our long waiting, of the way grief has frayed us at the edges, but also of the fresh vibrancy of our love for Michaela. I have always hoped Michaela could see these ribbons and all that they mean. I have always wondered if the person, or people, responsible for Michaela’s kidnapping, have seen them, or those who harbor secret knowledge of what happened to her. Those ribbons are a message sent out into the universe by those of us who love her.
Most years that we have done this, it has been public. Well, it is a public place so it has always been public, but most years I have invited people on facebook. The last couple of years I didn’t. I was just weary. I was out of words. I am, in large part, out of words. There is nothing I can say about Michaela that I have not said. There is nothing I can say to Michaela that I have not said. For the people who have shown up for these anniversary remembrances, I say the same thing I have always said. “Thank you.” Thank you for coming, thank you for remembering, thank you for caring. Your love and support for my daughter have helped to keep me going through all these years.
But it is brief, short. A few words, a few ribbons. Hugs and exchanged greetings with people I see seldom and with whom I would love to share more than a few words. But the parking lot by the store is not a place for that. It’s not a place to hang out. It’s not comfortable. There is no public bathroom.
Because this is the 30th anniversary, I am thinking about changing this somehow, but I don’t know how. So I thought I’d ask for help, advice. So if you wouldn’t mind answering a few questions to help me with ideas, I’d really appreciate it. You can answer in a comment here, or on my Facebook page or Michaela’s facebook page, or you can email me at email@example.com.
First, I’d like to know if you would plan to attend, under what circumstances, and how far you would be coming to attend. In particular, if we held it as usual, on Monday morning at 10:15 a.m., would you come? Or would you be more likely to come if we held it at another time, the Sunday before, or in the evening?
Second, I’m wondering about holding it in a different location. I WILL, most definitely, still tie ribbons on the tree at the market, but that is a relatively brief process. I am thinking about perhaps having a separate anniversary remembrance, and perhaps coercing people into speaking and/or singing. Does anybody have any suggestions for locations? A park is an idea, but it is also in November, so the weather is not always friendly. A church? A public building? Does anybody have access to any of these that they would like to volunteer?
These are just some preliminary questions, but I would really appreciate your suggestions. It’s a daunting task, and one which also makes me feel really vulnerable. What if you had a party and nobody came? You might be hurt and disappointed. But what if you had a remembrance for your missing child, and nobody came? You would be broken hearted. I cannot flick my magic wand, turn back the clock, save Michaela from what she went through, what she may now be going through. The only thing I can do is try to keep her alive in this world by trying to keep her alive in your hearts and minds. I can only hold her light up for everyone to see, so that perhaps at least what she endured might not have been for nothing. Perhaps she can shine into someone else’s darkness and bring some light, some hope. I have done this better at some times than others, and less well in the last couple of years. There have been a lot of things going on. I’ve had to consider dying and have had to work at living instead. But in all honesty, I am just weary, and I am running out of words. All the words I know I have spoken. New words are failing me. But I am still alive. And Michaela is still alive in my heart. And I will not let her die. I will not let her light go out.
So please, if you have any ideas or suggestions, please let me know. Keep in mind that, barring some miracles between now and November, they will need to be free or next to it.
To all of you who have been walking this path with me for so long, thank you. As I sit here I can see a parade of so many people who have stood in that parking lot at the market with me, whether for one November morning, or for twenty of them. I can see your faces. I know who you are, that you are there, and it means everything to me. Thank you. And to all you who have never been to the market, but who have read my words, who have shared my sorrows and my hopes, thank you as well. Thank you for loving Michaela. Thank you for sharing the burden of hope that can grow so heavy.