Island Tidings: pictures and prose about our recent adventures on and off our tiny island
The other night we watched Bambi with Daddy. Daddy’s the son of a Game Warden, so his narration prepared our ladies for the inevitable death of Bambi’s mommy. In between popcorn’s chew, he talked about permits and how it’s against the law to hunt a doe with a fawn. He raved about all the yummy meals a hunter could cook with his own family and how happy they’d all be to not be hungry while eating deer fajitas. I watched as they listened, doe-eyed, making silent promises to themselves that they’d never close their eyes to wish to be a deer if one could come to such fate.
In writing this week’s Tidings, I did just that. I closed my eyes and pictured what animal I’d be, while taking into consideration illustrious fate. I filled page after notebook’s page in black ink and tried to make sense of my week.
I’m knitting a tiger for my second born, my almost-four-year-old babe. She wants a Halloween colored stuffed tiger. So, fitting I acted like a tiger in these last few important days.
Daylight Savings Time has wrecked me. I’m up until three o’clock, listening to the frogs who sing within our street’s evening darkness. Sometimes, the 45 mph wind gusts dull the frogs, who I imagine are listening to the horror within sea’s strong winds to our coast, to our island.
As always, there’s beauty in the world even amidst so much tragedy. Daffodils dance so yellow, so golden-sun against a stormy grey sky.
I have been going back and forth whether or not to write about the past ten days publicly. Tonight, I realize the greatest gift that could come from my community’s story is this: I have readers around the nation, the globe. I want them to know that if a sex offender wants to move to your community, your neighborhood, your street – you have the power to say no, to put up a fight. To educate yourselves and protect your children.
Warning: Tidings this week are a soapbox, a rambling stream-of-consciousness copied from my notebook’s black ink
On a recent Friday our tiny island got word a Level III Sex Offender was moving to the island. He would move within our island’s most remote neighborhood, beside thickly wooded trails, amongst tree houses, dozens and dozens of children on backyard swing sets and bicycles.
I will not share the details of his convictions, layered in atrocity and evil, nor will I pay service to any idea that this criminal deserves an admitted thirty-first chance.
On that recent Friday, minutes before five o’clock, a Department of Corrections officer mentioned to an island mama that he’d need to see around 1,000 emails with solid reasons as to why this offender should not move to our isolated, remote island.
Luke was away on a ski trip and our ladies were ill with a dad’s-away fever. I was sleep deprived, feeling an urgency to fill an inbox and change a predator placement. I made a call to action piece of paper. Our sunny weekend morning was spend loading our wagon, setting out on scooters and knocking on neighborhood doors, handing out papers.
I was worried I’d meet, in doorbell’s ring, an individual who supported predators’ forgiveness and a desire for each human to move forward in a future, regardless of past. I realized I am not interested in this belief, this opinion. I am a mother. I am a mother of children who would accept candy from strangers. And, for this worry, I never gave my name or address and introduced myself as an island mama of three.
A core group of islands really rattled the call for support with thoughtful, hardworking passionate cohesiveness I still feel inspired and thankful to live amongst them.
Over 880 emails were received by Monday’s eight o’clock mark. Voicemail full, server crashed. Facebook played such a key role in spreading this information in an immediate way I wonder what we all did a decade ago. Love played such a key role in organizing, in supporting this cause.
In Seattle’s big city paper, our island has been criticized with a not-in-my-backyard mentality and some elitist mindset that wants to pick and choose their community members.
Damn right. Not in my daughter’s good friends’ backyard. Not next to my mama friend’s daycare. If I can hold hands with my community and take a deep breath that it’s a safer place, then damn right. Not on my island.
We’re an island that’s created some of the toughest Orca protection in the nation. Whales are our vital organ to tourism, They’re beautiful; we love Orcas. It comes as no shock we raise the same signal flag for our beautiful children.
As a parent, I know it’s not when I have a discussion with my children about serious issues but when I begin those conversations and how they change and shift overtime. As a parent, I know it’s not just the one registered sex offender I need to keep an eye on. But, this island’s first Level III Sex Offender set discussion’s table.
This family, this island is forever changed because of one person that wanted to move here. Some of us have answered the call to begin educating ourselves on how to have conversations, and some of us have begun those conversations:
Out of nowhere and over Chutes and Ladders:
Mama: What would a stranger have to say to you in order for you to get into their car? I want you to think about your answer and keep it inside your head.
Betty: They’d have to offer me lots of candy and a trip to the toy store.
Lucy: We have lots of candy. You hide it in a box and only share it with me once and a while. The box doesn’t need anymore. I have too many toys…I guess they’d have to say, Hey, Kid, I have fresh, hot buttered corn on the cob.
Mama: Really, you’d get in the car with a stranger? Really, candy? Really, corn on the cob?
Over weekend’s course, we discussed the lies evil people could tell. The disguises they could wear, the facts they could learn to fool, to trick, to harm. The girls added realistic nightmare scenarios that took place within made-up episodes of Scooby Doo. The girls took this approach. It wasn’t scary, I guess, to talk about themselves as cartoon characters. I let them talk, and talk, and talk. Then, I talked about how someone people know well sometimes try to harm/hurt/take people.
I don’t know was my answer for a lot of Why?
Over weekend’s course, I let the questions come. I answered them honestly, in plain explanation. The girls made connections to literary characters like Corduroy, Knuffle Bunny. Stuffed animal lovies that had been left, taken.
In times of disbelief, we search for what we know.
I feel good I kept it casual, plain. There were no nightmares, just awareness.
When Luke returned with Tahoe’s powdery glow, he met Lucy at the door, twirling her blankie between two fingers, Daddy, did you know there’s people who take kids, harm kids?
And with this statement, a bit of her wonder and innocence fell away to know the world isn’t a complete, enchanted place.
Emotions on the island spun wild. The story landed at Washington’s head of Corrections. One small, tiny community was standing together for children, for safety, for peace. A protest was planned, then another. I missed the first protest, like a few moms I know. I was worried at the language, the impact on my girls. I wanted to go to the second, stand on a sidewalk and be a piece of a group that makes a gathering into a crowd. If ten people thought this way, each bought a friend, well, that’s a bit more sidewalk space taken up. I wondered if it was the right thing to do, the right thing for my girls to be a part of. Then I realized they had been with me since my inception of involvement.
Luke and I decided we wanted to teach our ladies to stand up and stand together to have your voices heard. You should stand beside others who want a safer, proactive community. We told them it’s important to stand tall to make a difference and to try to change action when you know what’s right. But, our girls didn’t need the details of convictions.
I trusted it would be peaceful to stand beside island mamas and island papas for a safer place.
As I walked with my three ladies, aged six and under, holding two signs we’d made the night before, I crossed my fingers that I’d made the right choice to come. I was worried those who supported this predator would be there with signs of their own. I worried about Olive’s happiness, after all, it was her nap time and she wasn’t so excited about the crowd, the cold wind. In this crowd I saw other babies, other toddlers, other kindergartners, parents, grandparents, neighbors.
Lucy wanted granola bars, to play peek-a-boo behind the picket signs and collect acorns. The swift, salt gusts made sign holding tough. Approaching the second hour, she was crying cold, nap-ready. Maybe I shouldn’t have brought her, I though, until while walking back to our van,
Mama, did we do it? There were so many of us. I think we made that person not come! We’re a little safer!
I know quite a few folks who didn’t attend the protest, the meetings.
But, they supported those who did. There’s strength in all numbers, and strength in knowing you’re not alone. And support has so many threads. For this I am so thankful.
Over 200 people attended the island meetings. We poured out our fears, facts and beliefs about a safer, stronger community. It was emotional, it was upsetting. The Department of Corrections said there was a 99% chance the predator wouldn’t move here because, in large part, to our fact-based emails and involvement.
The mother clutching a sippy cup, asking about the 1% chance, asking about her would-be next door neighbor, asking about after 22 months of probation, how this offender is able to move here got me. She could be, before long, holding this cup in another light, blinds taut, or never willing to run inside for second’s time to fetch a phone’s ring, water’s sip, while her swing set is full.
Today, at noon’s hour, we learned the Level III Offender will not move to our island while under his 22 months of probation. But, the battle isn’t over. Celebrating now, yes, but in awareness that dialogue and training needs to occur in our community.
If a probationary sex offender is attempting to move to your community, band together. Email, call. Gather facts on area children, part-time children (visiting grandparents, nieces and nephews) to the closely impacted neighborhood. Seek legal advice, alert the media. Protest. Open lines of communication with the Department of Corrections.
Change happens when your voices are heard.