The sweetest words: ‘Safe and sound’
by Judy Elliott
August 18, 2012 11:30 PM | 801 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I decided not to give the safety lecture before our grandson, Knox, left for college. I figured my reminder to check the battery in the smoke alarm at his apartment would fall on deaf ears.

But I did manage a caution or two by phone: No smoking. Please, no bars. I’m sure he was “texting” friends as I droned on.

When our children come home for a holiday, one of the three harkens back to his or her college days, recalling a mother who put emergency measures in play in case of fire, flood or the spread of contagious disease.

The middle child chose a college on top of a mountain, a lovely spot in summer, autumn and spring, but a challenge during winter. Along with proof of insurance, I left a candle and matches in the glove compartment of her car in case she was stranded in a snowstorm.

After graduation, when the car was traded for a newer model, the candle was unearthed, twisted like a pretzel, a veteran of four years of icy weather, but never used.

Her older sister was packed off to school with a first-aid kit and a small hammer in the door pocket of her car. The drive to her college included a span of bridge over a river. If her car skidded and landed in the water, the hammer could be used to break a window so she could exit and swim to the surface, I told myself.

I also pondered a useful little tool, nice to have on hand if she found herself in an overturned car, trapped in her seat belt. The sharp edge of a retractable blade made quick work of cutting the belt off, but, she reminded me, she’d have to wear it on a chain around her neck. Definitely not cool!

By the time our son went to seminary in New York City, I had accumulated a stash of flashlights to tuck in his duffel bag. You never know when a blackout will plague city life.

He was not as patient as his sisters had been with the obsessions of an overprotective mother. His parting shot came as his father and I saw him off at the airport. “You could just pin a note on me like I’m Paddington Bear,” he announced, rolling his eyes.

Sounded good to me. “Please take care of this bear,” could easily translate to read: “Please take care of this boy.”

There were no muggings during his three years in the Big Apple, although the bombing of a subway car at the station near his school brought me to my knees.

On the day of the attack, when, for hours, I could not get in touch with the boy (our boy) who carried his back pack through that subway station every week, I called emergency rooms all over the city.

As a new generation of loved ones leaves home, moving to faraway places, discerning what is safe and what isn’t, I send up daily petitions for their protection.

Only last week, before our college grandson left for school, his hunting rifles became an issue. He planned on taking them to his new apartment, locking them in a closet, ready for deer or duck sightings later in the semester.

I blurted out a loud: “No.” College apartments are like turnstiles. Friends and strangers come and go. Some are responsible. Others wander in after too many keg parties. Thankfully, a mother, (not me), decided no rifles would travel to a university.

A couple of days a week, my husband and I pick up our youngest grandsons from their neighborhood school. We stand outside with a dozen or so parents and grandparents who wait for “the walkers” to run out the school door.

Once they do, we trade smiles as we lean forward to take small hands in our own. Then we head home, watchful grown-ups and tender lives, children’s, warmed by the sweetest words of any day: “Safe and sound.”

Judy Elliott is an award-winning columnist from Marietta.
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