Today I had the opportunity to spend some time with my beautiful little girl, so after work I picked her up from daycare and we went straight to Knott’s Berry Farm to get a few hours in of rides, fun, and some dinner before they closed for the day.
It was the perfect day for some outdoor fun: cool but not too cold, sunny but without the heat beating down on you, and clouds in the sky that kept it from being too bright, which was good for me because I had left my sunglasses at home.
Parking was quick and painless, and since it was about 4:30 when we got there, most everyone was leaving for the day. We filled up our refillable glass with boysenberry punch and were on our way to ride all the rides we could get on in the time we had available.
Rides were not a problem since there were practically no kids there. Our first ride was the school bus, and there was an adorable little girl who looked to be about 2 years of age with her mother. The mother looked kind of young, definitely younger than me, but I couldn’t tell if she was in her 20’s or early 30’s. By her husband, I was guessing mid to late 20’s. Like us, it seemed they were going one-by-one down the row of kiddie rides as they also sat with us on the tug boat ride, and were in the car next to us for Pig Pens Bouncing Buggy ride.
The girl was friendly like my daughter, and they were so cute together. I heard the mother call out the girl’s name a couple times so, I don’t know, I guess from that I knew the girl’s name. My daughter went to grab the girls hand to hold it and walk together, and I reminded her that she doesn’t touch a baby without the mother’s permission. The mother smiled and laughed, saying it was ok. She had a friendly face, and seemed nice, and so I introduced myself as we followed the girls to the next ride down the row.
The seemed like a nice young family out to spend a day with their child, much like I was doing. I asked her name and she told me what it was, and I immediately replied that there was no way I was ever going to be able to pronounce it. She knew, and she laughed. She was not offended and I was glad that I was right in thinking she wouldn’t be. I have learned most people like it when you’re up front about things… that it makes for less awkward future situations.
See, they were not from here and, from the way she was speaking of it later on in the day, I think the family is from Qatar….or someplace that sounds similar in that part of the world. She wore a hijab. Yes, I was uncomfortable.
The world has become a scary place, and 20 years ago I never would have thought twice about the family other than to think of how nice they were, and how well our daughters got along. I probably would have asked for their phone number, suggested that we meet here again, I don’t know, maybe I would have made a friend, but the whole time were together there was doubt and fear in my mind.
When she suggested that we go ride something I wondered if they were going to lead us to some part of the park where they were going to set off a bomb, and when they took pictures of the kids on the rides and saw my daughter was in one, or two, I wondered if he was going to try to kidnap her for human trafficking purposes. I mean oh my GOD. What the hell? This is so not right! I pushed these thoughts to the back of my mind and yes, I was on guard the whole time, but I spoke with them while our girls played together, laughed, and held hands. Yes, they did show me the pictures and ask if it was ok that she was in there, I said yes.
Why did I say yes? Because they asked. Also, because they trusted me to ride on a ride with THEIR precious little girl. I said yes because even though I had these dark thoughts in my head, I cannot assume EVERYONE is a terrorist. In fact, I’m pretty sure if you did the calculations, maybe .002% of the muslim world (and I’m doubling what I think the actual number may really be) participates in terrorist activities. I said yes because if she was brown haired, brown eyed, wearing every day american clothes I would NOT have thought twice about anything.
So yes, I had these suspicious thoughts but I did not act on them until the very end. During the time, I debated whether or not I should give her my number and request that they send me copies of the pictures of which my daughter was in….but at the end of the day I didn’t. When my daughter was getting tired and it was nearing time to go, they asked if we wanted to get dinner and I said no, that we had to go when I had brought my daughter there with the intention of eating at the restaurant right outside the gates. We left the park early (well, not seriously early, by about half an hour than I had intended) just so we didn’t have to eat dinner with them.
I gave in to the fear. Of this, I am ashamed.
The woman, I got a little of her story. She is from “her country”, she never actually told me where they are from, but she had gone to doctors in her country, and in Thailand, before coming to America to be treated for Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia. She has CANCER! She has been receiving treatment in America for ONE YEAR and has come to the point where she can now spend a day with her daughter at Knott’s. A year ago she couldn’t even hardly walk. Yes I looked to see if she had any hair sticking out from under her Hijab and I did see some long, dark hair….but I don’t know if that means she was lying. Maybe that is why I was unable to get her contact information? Because she has been receiving chemo for a year and has hair? She did have some sort of badge on, and I assumed it was something in case of an emergency that indicated what her condition is and what treatment she is receiving, something given to her from the hospital.
I’m not going to try to psychoanalyze this, but it makes me sad that this is the kind of world I live in now. I say ‘I’ and not “we” because these were MY fears, MY suspicions on which I based MY decisions. I cannot say anyone else that had been in this situation would have done the same. I hope to think that most people would NOT have gone the route I did, and would have made a new friend. Not me, I sit here kicking myself knowing that I am going to regret the decision I made in walking away and hearing the little girl cry because she didn’t want us to leave.
I wish we could all be like children and just accept each other while running off holding hands, instead of having to deal with all this doubt, this suspicion, this fear. I cannot explain how much this has hurt my heart. I cannot explain how ashamed of myself I am.