Savvy readers of these here Chronicles may remember this post where I wrote about Boo's encounter with the (probably) well-meaning mom we met in the library. The one who lured and led him away, briefly, out of my sight. On the day that it was discovered that 8-year old Sandra Cantu was murdered by her Sunday School teacher.
The incident served as somewhat of a wake-up call to me to continue the stranger-danger conversations with the kids, which we did. Un-nerving? Yes. Necessary? Hell, yeah.
And so we find ourselves needing to continue the conversation again upon seeing the mug shot in our local newspaper.
The Dean recognized the guy in the photo immediately. I, on the other hand, have this odd quirk where I am unable to recognize someone out of the context in which I know and associate them. For example... say I see someone, oh I don't know, every Sunday at church. Might smile, might sit behind them in the next row. Shake their hand by way of greeting when the minister encourages us to do so. The person might smile at my kids. Ask them their names.
And when that same person is arrested and charged with 29 counts of child pornography, it doesn't register. Gee, I think that [insert curse word of choice here] kind of looks like that guy from church .... is the best I was able to do when reading the newspaper on Saturday morning. (Innocent until proven guilty kind of goes out the window in this case. He's admitted to everything and the authorities have 29 computer files to prove it.)
And now I'm more than speculating on exactly the nature and extent of his contact with my kids. If he happened to surreptiously snap a cell phone photo of them. Altered it in some way. The Dean saw him once at church, helping out in the child care room with the infants and toddlers. The authorities, according to the news reports, found photos on his computer of kids who are 3 and 4 years old.
My kids could pass for 3 or 4 years old.
It disturbs me to know that while my family sat behind this pervert in church that there was the inclination, the likelihood, the very real possibility that he was consumed with thinking about my kids in ways unimaginable.
Just as I am consumed, obsessed even, with what he might have been thinking. Or doing. Not only in regards to my kids, but the other kids in our congregation.
We don't know, of course, and we likely won't. Meanwhile, there's a congregational meeting about this on Sunday. A community conversation of sorts. As is typical of our faith, we'll talk ad nauseum about our feelings. How sad we are. How supportive we must be of the family members. How we can move on.
Well, excuse me, but fuck that shit. (Sorry, relatives of mine who read this blog.) I don't want to go. I don't mean just on Sunday. I don't want to go back ever. Because there are some conversations that we should not need to have anywhere, much less in the sanctuary of our church, with people we would have liked to have gotten to know.
I know, logically, that I can't protect my kids forever. But they are 7 years old. They need and deserve my protection and that of those who I entrust them to, even for a half hour on Sundays. And what about the 3 and 4 year olds who were downloaded onto this creepo's computer?
Obviously, I'm angry as hell over this. That this is even a matter for discussion, yes, but there's more than that. I've worked in fields and in situations where I needed a background check, and when I signed up to be a religious education teacher at our church, I was surprised at the lack of one. Lack of funds to conduct one, I was told. We're a community, a family.
And I'm angry at myself for letting down my cynical guard and believing that crap. For being derelict enough to allow my kids to innocently believe that.
And now it falls to us as parents to continue the conversation, at least in our own house, as is our duty and our obligation to our kids. How to do this, I don't know. I just know I owe it to my kids to figure this out, however way I can.
But to be asked to have this conversation with people we once trusted?
There are, quite simply, no words.