A veteran flight engineer of the United States Air Force, “Claire” flew transport planes in Panama and the Persian Gulf Wars before giving birth to “Connor” in 2001 -- thirteen days after the September 11th attack on America.
Activated stateside, she remained the baby’s primary caretaker, nursing him and providing breast-milk at his daycare center. On monthly training weekends, her husband kept Connor.
Claire retired in 2004 with numerous medals for meritorious service before her world shattered on February 22nd. As she lay reading to Connor, then 29 months old, he crawled onto her head and said, “Mommy, susk my cock.” She had noticed his genitals got inflamed on weekends when she was gone. She knew her husband had been a victim of Father Michael Devlin, a Massachusetts priest defrocked for sex crimes against children.
At family court, the judge accused Claire of abusing the child by questioning him about his genital injuries and awarded custody to his father. By Christmas 2009, Claire had not seen her son for nearly eighteen months. She suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), not from wars abroad, but from court battles at home. She had defended her country, but was forbidden to protect her son.
Pictures of Mary and baby Jesus make Christmas a painful holiday for Claire and other mothers who have lost children to abusers in America’s dysfunctional family courts. Claire invited another mother to spend Christmas with her. Since they could not see their sons, they may as well spend the day together.
“Grace” drove to Claire’s home and convinced her it was time to see Connor. She had brought a gift, an archeologist’s tool kit for digging up dinosaurs.
Claire wrapped the gift carefully, adding Connor’s favorite stickers and a Christmas card. She included a birthday card she had not been allowed to give him. She put on her prettiest mommy clothes -- a red and black fleece jacket, warm pants, and snow boots. Bundled into Grace’s car, Claire asked quietly: "How are we going to do this?”
Grace wasn't sure. Claire had no restraining order against her, just years of legal abuse and abiding fear that if she got close to her son’s father and aunt, she would kill them for what they were doing to Connor.
The father’s house was dark with no sign that a child lived inside. They found his car at his sister’s home. Grace knew they needed a police officer, or they would get blamed for something they did not do.
Finding a squad car, Grace kept a tight reign on her own PTSD symptoms. She pulled out a business card and told the officer she was taking a woman to see her son on Christmas. She had tried to contact the boy’s father, but he wasn’t home. They needed the officer to help them avoid any problems.
At the house, Grace asked the officer to stand at a distance for fear of alarming the child. He watched from just beyond the next house. By then streetlights were coming on.
Instead of going to the door, Claire stood by Grace’s car under a streetlight looking radiantly beautiful. Her prematurely white hair flared out like luminescent angel wings.
Grace took Claire’s present to the door. She rang the bell and held her breath. A scurry of young feet sounded inside. The door opened, and Connor stood before her.
Grace smiled and handed him the present: "Connor, this is from your mommy. Look! She’s standing there under the light." He leaned forward, his eyes searching.
"That’s my mommy!" Connor exclaimed. He waved frantically, and Claire waved back laughing and weeping. No matter what scary things they had told him about her, he was not afraid. Grace felt the enormity of their love and thought of her own son.
"Nooooo!" A screech erupted as the boy’s aunt barreled toward the door. She snatched the box from his hands.
Grace spoke firmly to the woman: "Look over my right shoulder. A police officer is there for us, and I will call him if I need to.”
Pulling the boy away, the aunt retreated into the house.
Grace reached her car and turned to see an unnerving sight. Connor had squeezed behind the Christmas tree by a big window in the living room. He pressed his fingers to the glass as if drowning in a submerged car against an unyielding weight of water. He pressed so hard she could see the whites of his hands. He leaned in, pushing his face, then his entire body, against the window for one last look.
Claire stood under the light waving and weeping. Suddenly the house went dark; the boy disappeared. Claire climbed into Grace’s car.
The mommies had delivered their gift.