Published on November 16th, 2017 | by Ann Rickard0
Sending Daughter to The US
Another mass shooting in the US. More comforting but empty words about ‘thoughts and prayers’. More shaking of heads at the senseless horror of it.
These shootings have become so common we barely register dismay any more. We have come to expect them as the norm in America now. We are shocked and saddened, of course. But not surprised. There is no hope for American gun-law change.
“Her passion was so fierce, so unrelenting, we had to help her fulfill her dream. So, we all worked hard towards the goal. There was extra homework, much application-form filling and a lot of meetings with authorities.”
I shiver when I think of my daughter, at age 14, going to America for a year on a student exchange program. It was 22 years ago, and at that time, there had not been a mass shooting at a high school. It did not occur to me, or her father, not to let her go because of insane and lax gun laws.
She had had a fascination with America since she was about 10. She loved everything about America, from the flag to the pop culture to the geography. She desperately wanted to go, she pleaded with us to help her get there.
Her passion was so fierce, so unrelenting, we had to help her fulfil her dream. So, we all worked hard towards the goal. There was extra homework, much application-form filling and a lot of meetings with authorities. But she made the grade, and she was ready to go and live far away for a full year. At such a young and formative age.
Thank God, it did not occur to us then that she might be in danger of a gun. There was no thought then of a crazed gun-wielding person entering such an innocent place as a school. Or charging through a shopping mall or a cinema or a church with an automatic weapon. How gloriously ignorant we were then.
Our daughter’s host family lived in a small town called Sumner, outside Seattle, Washington State. We knew nothing of Sumner, little of Seattle, even less of the state of Washington.
We consulted maps, learnt our geography, and sent our daughter off into the relative unknown one winter day, staying with her at Brisbane airport until she was on the plane and even long after the plane had taken off and was no longer in sight.
She loved her host family instantly. They had three teenagers in the house. The mother was like a teenager herself. Could a 14-year-old girl be in better company? Our worst (and only) fear was of an accident when she drove to school in a small truck, trucks being the favoured form of transport for most teenagers in Sumner at that time.
We telephoned her every Saturday, delighted she had fitted in so well, thrilled to live her adventures vicariously, happy for her, proud she was living her dream.
Her host family loved her. They made her a private bedroom out of a sewing room next to the living room. The sewing room had no heating, so they cut a square hole high in the living room wall and funnelled a little heat into her room when the winter temperature dropped below freezing.
She thrived at school, went ski-ing with her host family in Gross Mountain on weekends and visited Vancouver and ate many hotdogs and came home a year later with an American accent.
It was an experience beyond her biggest dreams. And ours.