We walk to the harbour, I am considering just how dangerous can it be, we will be in the boat for such a short hop and then to safety. The boys are quiet, they appear worried, perhaps they can feel my inner panic, the panic I am ignoring. I am good at ignoring these feelings, in the last months I have ignored the pain in my legs, the ache in my arms, the fear in my heart, but the children can sense it. Maybe it is the noise of the water, unfamiliar and black, black as the night sky above that is making them so.
The waves are crashing to shore, suddenly I think that perhaps in another time, another situation this maybe a romantic place, somewhere to stroll hand in hand, but not now, not tonight for me it is only a place of fear. The boat seems small, too small for so many, a quick glance around and I see faces I have seen many times on this journey, yet we have no eye contact, no smiles, we are all keeping it together, if only just. Onto the boat and there is no room for us all to sit together, I gather the littlest one on my lap, the other two sit across and down the bench from me, I don’t like it but take comfort in that they are used to looking out for each other, since we lost their Dad they have been as one.
We move off from the land, I hear voices are shouting, loud in the night, I am glad I could afford the life jackets they will keep us safe
We are out in the sea now, bobbing along the waves, I remember a time when we went as a family to a river, a sunny day when the children paddled and we smiled so much. I often find myself remembering and imagining, putting myself back into the happy times. It helps a bit.
The darkness of the night seems kinder out here, it envelops our craft and offers an anonymity, I am sure that all will be well.
I have heard the stories of how kindness will meet us on the beach, how we will be fed and clothed and safe. Safe is all I need. The boys are relaxing, this is one more adventure for them, tears have gone, now there are smiles, unless you look into their eyes. As their mother I know how the pain they have seen is reflected in their eyes. I weep for their lost childhood, for their sorrow and most of all because I couldn’t change anything.
We are nearing the shore now, men are shouting, lights are flashing, it seems we are heading for the wrong beach. I reach to grab the boys trying to pull them closer to me, they are too far away. The boat rocks, the people on the other side are shouting, someone stands up, there is more rocking, the waves are crashing and suddenly we are not safe. Still not safe.
I watch in horror as people start to jump into the water, I sit frozen to my seat, holding the baby and the only bag I have left, I don’t have enough arms for all my children. I call out, too late they have jumped together, of course they have, they do everything together. I cannot see them in the dark water.
A pain I didn’t know I could feel hits me, I cling to the baby, we have come through so much together, walked so far, and now just minutes from safety I have lost them. I need to leave the boat, but I have the baby, it is cold, so very cold, but I have to find my boys. I lower myself into the water, thankfully it is not deep I can stand, just about, I hold the baby high, she won’t survive the cold water. My bag is still on my back and I can hear my boys, they are calling me. I fall over into the water and suddenly I cannot breathe, everything is wet and cold. I stand and fall again, then suddenly strong arms are holding me, they reach for the baby I hold on tight. Together we reach the shore. We reach safety.
Around me it is chaos, there are screams and tears, but there is hope, we have blankets put around us, the baby cries, she lives, I am thankful. I still can’t see my boys, but I have faith they are here and safe.
Later, much later, there will be a bus and a camp and I have hope that we will be helped. My boys find me and I hold them so tight I fear I will never let them go. We are the lucky ones, we have made it through hell and have found freedom. Nothing can ever be as bad as it has been. My boys will not have to fight in an unwinnable war, my baby girl will not be used and abused. I have done it. I am Mother and I have brought my children to safety.
Sometimes I think about our other life, where our home was beautiful, where my babies were born, and they slept in their own beds, with toys around, where they squabbled and played and learned to read, the house where their Daddy and I lived a life so wonderful. We had love and friendship and we didn’t know, we just didn’t know how wonderful it was until everything changed.
I know we will never see their Daddy again, my strong and handsome husband is no more. He is with me in spirit, in my heart and he is proud of me. Proud that I have done this, I have brought our babies to safety. Nothing else matters.