Before I had either of the Ls, I read The Child in Time, by Ian McEwan . Even without children, McEwan’s description of a child’s disappearance – in the novel, through abduction – chilled me to the bone. Fast forward to summer 2011 and we’re having lunch on the steps surrounding the Covent Garden Plaza, soaking up the atmosphere and the sunshine. In less time than it takes to shove a plastic container in a rucksack (and I know this for a fact, since this is what I was doing at the time), L2 has disappeared.
In that single split second when you realise that they’re not behind you, on either side of you nor, indeed, anywhere to be seen in the immediate vicinity, your heart stops and the surrounding environment grows to twice its normal size and twice its normal colour palette. Suddenly the sheer size and scale of public places become horribly apparent, and the volume of people living in that place in that moment along with you is greater than you can ever have imagined. In such an environment, to see their familiar face appears above impossible.
I thank God that L2 was simply hiding in Crabtree and Evelyn, having snuck in through the door, probably, knowing the way he thinks, to see how we would react. The relief of seeing him back was like nothing I could have imagined, and my heart goes out to those parents and relatives who don’t get that reconnection.
I cannot contemplate the concept of nothingness that fills me if I think about enduring that loss, the sense of incompleteness that overwhelms if I imagine one of them no longer there. But tragically there are many families who must endure it daily as their child feels they must, for whatever reason, leave their home environment.
There are many reasons a child will choose to run away from home. Growing up is difficult to navigate and harder to accomplish, a journey of missed steps and backwards paths which often feels unaccompanied. As the Railway Children information shows, it is nothing to do with family economics or where people live. Circumstances leading to it must be as varied as the individuals who choose to leave their current situation to look for another way.
Christmas is the time of the year when family, family connections and family time come to the forefront. If I can write this to raise £2 from Aviva while in some small way bringing the heartrending issue of runaway children to some people’s minds, then it is surely a ‘must’.
If anyone comments on this, it’s another £2 from Aviva to the Railway Children charity; if it’s shared on Facebook or Tweeted, it’s £2 a time. Check out the Railway Children content on Mumsnet – by doing that, you could also help raise another £2! Thank you for taking the time.