By Scott Herstad
When I was very young—four, maybe five—I grabbed the glowing red heating element of the kitchen range. I cried out, turned to my mom, a woman then twenty-years younger than I am now, and showed her the blistering striations. She says I did not cry. I have no memory of the event, can only now imagine how that young woman must have felt.
Forty years later, my own daughter, very young—four, maybe five—wants to play outside under the winter stars. It’s cold. I’m impatient and want to go home. I tell her I’m leaving, get in the car, and start the engine. Startled by the sound, she slips on a bit of ice and disappears from the headlights’ glow. From inside the car I can hear the impact. Years later my throat still tightens at the memory of this, and I feel the same heavy, sickening sense of dread. I rush to the front of the car where I find my beautiful, unbruised daughter sprawled on her butt. She is fine. She is crying. She will not remember this moment, but I, like my mother, will guard its beacon flame.