While making one last pit stop before boarding a plane leaving LAX a year ago, I found myself in the usual line of women awaiting a stall. The woman ahead of me had a small handbag in one hand and a small hand in the other. Her daughter, about three years old, pulled along a child’s tiny pink-flowered roller bag, her neon-bright tennis shoes lighting every step.
As we waited, we saw that the large wheelchair access or family-plus-luggage stalls had been occupied for a while and were likely to remain so. Taking the little girl and both bags into a single stall would make using the stall problematic at best. I wondered what this clearly capable Helicopter-Parent Age mother would do.
I remember a time when a mother, with complete trust, would simply have asked the grandmother standing behind her to keep an eye on her daughter the few minutes it would take for her to use the restroom. But who can trust a grandmotherly woman nowadays, even one who has just passed through several TSA screenings? And with the frequent announcements to keep an eye on baggage at all times and report any unattended baggage to the nearest security post, how could a mother take her eyes off her greatest treasure? Would she risk having that grandmother or another passenger report an abandoned child? What happens to supposedly abandoned children? And what child by the age of three does not know that she must never, never, never trust a stranger, much less stand with one while her mother is behind a nearby locked door? How great would be her terror? Would encouraging her to stay there undermine the determined teaching three years long?
I thought of my four granddaughters and almost offered, but I knew better. Not long before, I had smilingly asked a little one sitting in a grocery cart, mother within reach, what she called her stuffed animal only to have the mother’s evil eye directed my way as she whisked the cart from me and danger. I had seen parents snatch their children back from coaches and teachers who were publically congratulating them for jobs well done. I decided to wait and watch.
When a stall opened, the young mother hurried forward, still clutching handbag and child. She entered the stall, placed her handbag up toward the hook, and told her daughter to stand at the door. As her daughter whimpered, the door closed and the lock clicked. The little girl put her face right at the crack between the door and the frame, roller bag clutched to her side, and, with tears slipping down her cheeks, began to sing softly, “Let it go. Let it go. Can’t hold it back anymore.”
Listening to her wispy voice, I realized that we are seeing corporations like The Walt Disney Company and movies like Frozen and songs like “Let It Go” take the place of grandmothers and grandmother-substitutes for comfort, security, and peace. Tears slid down my cheeks while I mulled all we are letting go.