Tragedy Averted


I was not a perfect mother! When my children were young things happened that shouldn’t have. Had I been more careful my son, now in his upper 40’s, wouldn’t have scars on his right hand from a serious burn. Fortunately it hasn’t impeded him but it took a long long time to heal and it wasn’t pretty.

Our family was living in a small apartment outside of Jerusalem in a place called Mevaseret Zion. Maybe you’ve seen the signs for the village as you wind up Highway 1 towards the holy city. Our place did not have central heat. This was in 1973 when Israel thought of itself as a tropical country! It was freezing and fortunately we were lucky enough to have a kerosene heater smack in the middle of the little place. And so, our boy, then almost 3, dashed around the apartment on his little tricycle and slammed right into the heater, breaking his fall with his right hand. End of story!

The point is, as a mother of four, I know how likely it is to lose sight of a child. Perhaps another child needs attention. Perhaps dinner is burning. Perhaps someone knocks at the door. Perhaps the laundry is waiting to be folded and put away. Perhaps Ima has a cold and just feels miserable. Or perhaps, as in my son’s story, two of the other kids have chicken pox. That can distract.

So, I’m not judgmental about what I call the incident in the park.

It was a magnificent early spring day. Verona Park in New Jersey was a perfect place to be with the geese honking victoriously in the beautiful lake. They had survived another winter, and from the looks of things, were pretty fertile as well. Little goslings floated amongst their parents, tranquil and seemingly enjoying the change in the weather. Hey, they never knew it could be warm and lovely. And suddenly it was.

The weeping willow trees are abundant in Verona Park and they were just beginning to show hints of green. The other trees looked about ready to burst open and flaunt their leaves.

My husband and I  walked for exercise but, in reality, the park on a breathtaking spring day, is truly a sensual experience!

And so, we met the very old lady (believe me I know from the mirror what old ladies look like and this one had me beat by at least a decade) with her shelty, a small collie who was, this very day, celebrating his 11th birthday. So we wished the boy well and he seemed quite happy to make our acquaintance and bask in birthday glory.

We almost collided with the brand new bike rider, a boy of about 8 who was able to remain upright but seemed uncertain and nervous. His mom, jogging behind him, was frantic and proud. She knew. A milestone had been reached and soon he’d be zooming away, out of reach of her racing after him. This beginning of independence wasn’t lost on any of us. Meanwhile we were happy not to have crashed into him, or him into us!

It was amazing to watch some of the youngest mothers, running with their strollers, babies oblivious and loving being rocked to sleep in the delicious spring air.

And the mother with triplets. More power to her. They were about 3 and she alone was their caretaker. An admirable job by my estimate. These kids knew to stay close to Mama. And Mama didn’t let them out of her sight.

We enjoyed seeing the group of about 8 Bocce players, obviously returning to their game after a winter hiatus. These were folks of our generation and I hope the winter was good to them. They were happy to be back in the park. We could tell.

Let me not forget the lovers. Isn’t spring the season of love? Holding hands, gazing at each other.

We had had a delightful walk when it happened. We were returning to our car, feeling good about our exercise routine, and loving the scent of growth on the park‘s Lenape Trail. I shudder to think of what could have happened. What didn’t happen. The thread of life is ever so fragile.

A woman was getting her children into her minivan. There were several kids and the one I estimate to be under 2 wandered away. I cried out, not believing my eyes, as he continued into the street. A car was careening down the park drive. He was probably not doing more than 20 mph but I saw, flashing in front of me, the child, the car, and the tragedy that could have ensued. Lives would have been ruined. The mother’s. The child’s. The driver’s. Our own. None of us would have forgiven ourselves.

The driver stopped just in time. In his fury he blasted on his horn. The mother ran out and claimed her child. He was unscathed. She will never let that happen again.

I wanted to scream at her. I wanted to tell her that her child is precious and she cannot neglect him for even one second.

And then I remembered the day in Mevaseret Zion and my son’s right hand; and we left the park.

About the Author
Rosanne Skopp is a wife, mother of four, grandmother of fourteen, and great-grandmother of two. She is a graduate of Rutgers University and travels back and forth between homes in New Jersey and Israel. She is currently writing a family history.
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