Sunday, July 31, 2011

Dear Michaela

Sorry I haven't written in awhile. A reader wrote to me to find out if I'm okay, and I am. I have been busy in the last few weeks, mostly with your baby sister. Not such a baby now, as she will actually be 18 in a few months. First she had a performance as Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing. Then she and I went on a vacation. I have realized recently that we just haven't done that much in her life. Part of it is that having five kids and being a stay at home mom hasn't left much room in the budget for such things. I don't know whether the kids would rather that I had worked and provided them with more stuff and entertainment, but it's the choice I made, and I couldn't have made any other choice. It was just what my heart demanded that I do. Even now that all the kids are older ... all adults except for Johnna, who is 17, they are my first priority. My boss questioned this not long ago, said aren't your kids grown up? Do you need to take so much time off for them? Well yes, sometimes I do. (The only one I've really taken "a lot of time" off work for is you, by the way. In the month after Jaycee was found and while we were looking for you, I took off work more often than I went, but my boss was very understanding about that.)

I remember watching the movie "Baby Boom" with you, not that long before I lost you, where Diane Keaton was a high powered executive who inherited a baby from a relative who had passed away. It ended up transforming her life, and she had to quit her job and move to the country where she stayed home with the baby, where she ended up starting a baby food company. I remember when we watched it you actually cried, and said, "When I grow up I want to be just like you, and stay home to take care of my children." So I guess it meant something to you, and hopefully it has to the other kids as well.

Money isn't the only reason we haven't gone on a lot of vacations, though. Part of it is that it is just plain hard to get me out of the house. I couldn't tell you exactly why or what that is all about. I know that after you were kidnapped, I wouldn't leave the house for a long time, because I expected you to come walking down the street to home, or to call, and I wanted to be sure to be there for you. So that's not it now, I know, but sometimes things just get ingrained in you and continue to affect you long after they have any validity in the reality of your life. Maybe also I'm afraid? A little bit, I think. But you know, Alex and his girls live just a few hours from here, and I don't get to see them nearly often enough....

Anyway, when we came back from our vacation, Johnna had another thing going on. One of her friends had come up with the idea of having a parade in Castro Valley for gay ... umm, not gay rights so much as just plain gay acceptance. This little event ended up ballooning into something so big the sheriff's department said they couldn't march anywhere because it was too many people. So it became a rally at the high school, with speakers and musicians, and a few hundred people attended. It was so much fun. It was just the nicest bunch of people, a really peaceful and happy event, and I was really impressed because afterwards there wasn't even a bunch of garbage to pick up. Here are some photos from the event for your family album.

Johnna with the group of people who gathered together to work on the event.
Johnna is the fourth from the left.

A few of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence came from San Francisco to support the event. 
This is Billy, who was gorgeous and also an extraordinarily nice human being.
Of course, this is Johnna with him.

Johnna and the friends who started it all, being interviewed.
I suppose you can recognize Johnna by now. :)

Anyway, there was a woman there selling rainbow jewelry. Rainbows have become a symbol for the gay community. I bought a necklace, and I wear it almost every day. So undoubtedly there are people who are going to think I'm gay, but that's okay. I am an "ally." I also wear it because it's pretty. But when I put it on, what I thought of was you. Do you remember how you used to draw rainbows all the time? They have always symbolized you to me, because of that. In your drawings of rainbows, what I have always seen is hope. Jaycee Dugard has set the pinecone as her symbol of freedom, and I have ordered one of her pinecone necklaces as a symbol of freedom for you, Michaela. But if you were to come home and make symbolic necklaces, I think they would have to be rainbows, the symbol of hope that you left behind. I hope the gay community would be happy to share that symbol with you.

Well, today I hope to be able to get back to work on the book I am writing. I know I've talked about it before, but it's a fiction novel about allowing love to triumph over fear ... and what happens when you don't, I guess. I have actually written a book about your kidnapping, and life since then, which kind of had the same theme, but I pulled it some years ago and have now replaced it with this idea. I did that partly because I realized that although it left me breathless much of the time, my life was not that interesting ... at least not unless I included other people's lives in it, and to do so would have been a violation of their privacy, which I don't feel I could do.  Also, everybody (meaning publishers) wanted a resolution. They wanted an ending that told what had happened to you. The actual point of the book was learning to live with the questions, with unresolved grief, with continuing to go on and to choose to love in spite of it, but that is kind of a wispy point I guess. I read Jaycee's book, and there was a part where she spoke about losing a cat, and she pondered whether we should allow ourselves to love at all when it's inevitably going to end in loss. But that is the point. Those are the things those of us who have suffered such terrible losses must ponder in our hearts.

It's interesting that Jaycee focuses so much on animals. She allowed herself to feel the sense of loss in the love she had for her animals, but within that grief she had bundled up the loss of her mother, her sister, her life. I do that, too. I am sometimes ashamed because on my facebook I am far more likely to feature photos of animals in animal shelters than photos of missing children. I think part of the reason is because it is just a problem that is so much easier to actually solve. Here is an animal who will die if nobody adopts him or her. It is so much easier to find someone to do that and save the animal than to find a missing child. And it is also true that the photos of missing children receive far more press and attention than those unwanted animals. I get friends requests every day from people who have hundreds of friends in common with me. Funny enough, it is because they want to tell me about the issue of missing children.

But perhaps it is also that honestly the subject of missing children just clenches at my heart too deeply. It's like referred pain, I guess. You can only deal with what you can deal with. People say I'm strong, but perhaps I'm just too much of a coward to face up to some things. Yet those feelings will come out, if not where they originate, then in some other place where they are perhaps a bit easier to feel.

I do know that opening my heart up to love again after it was broken when you were taken was extraordinarily difficult and painful. Do you feel that also, Michaela? If you are out there somewhere reading this, if you have a reluctance to come home, is it because of that?

Anyway, the book I am writing begins with you. At first I started with a mom with a missing child, but I made the characters fictional and created different circumstances. But it just didn't ring true, so I cast that off and now the missing child in the book is you, every bit you. I changed your name, because I didn't want the reality of you and your kidnapping to lead people to assume that anything in the rest of the book is based on fact of any kind, because it isn't.Well, mostly not. I draw on my deepest feelings every day for this book. But basically it's an illustration. As for your name, I haven't settled on it for certain, but right now I have named you Aria Joy, which means "song of joy." That is what you are to me, a song of joy. And in the end, this book will be a love song for you. It is so difficult to write, though. It is so difficult to capture in words all that my heart holds for you.

I ask again, Michaela, that if you are out there somewhere reading this blog, that you would let me know. Even if you aren't ready to reveal yourself, where you are, to come home, just let me know. You can respond anonymously on this blog, or you can send me e-mails, or you can call me. I know some of those things can be traced, but not all can, and not easily. Let me know it's you by telling me something that nobody else in the world would know. Do you remember our family code word? A memory? Hope doesn't always float along like a helium filled balloon. Sometimes it is an iron anchor. It would lift my heart and my hopes so much to hear just a word from you, just to know that you are out there somewhere, that these words that I write are not falling into a chasm of emptiness.

But either way, I will keep writing to you. I will keep you alive with my words.

I love you forever, baby girl. I miss you. You are in my heart always.



  1. Hi Sharon! It was really nice to hear from you again on this blog and to hear that you and your family are okay.

    You say that you read Jaycee's book? I am still waiting for my copy. It takes a bit longer to get to me here in South Africa. Should only arrive by monday next week.

    My 5 year old neice was visiting me a couple of weeks ago. For the first time I realised that she talks to anyone and everyone. She even walked away from me in a shopping centre to go talk to a lady she didn't know, because the lady wore the same dress that her granny has. Usually this would not necesarily bother me as long as she stayed in my eyesight, but because of reading your blog and website I was very uncomfortable with this. I told Michaela's story to her. She was terribly concerned about the "little girl". Not because of what may have happened to her or with who or where she may be. But she was very upset by the fact that the little girl couldn't see or be with her mommy or granny. I guess that is the worst thing that a 5 year old can imagine could happen to her. She was really sad about this. At least she did listen and I think she did learn a valueble lesson about strangers. And about trusting just anyone. And it could very well save her life one day. She and her little 3 year old cousin stay with their granny during the day. My mom Phoned me the monday to ask me what I told the 5 year old. She was telling her 3 yearold cousin the story and explaining to her (in her 5 year old way) what a stranger is and what she should do if someone tried to take her. My mom says the two of them spent the whole day practising how loud they can scream and kick and punch. (even though we both know that this is no match to a big stranger it will at the very least draw attention to what is happening should something ever happen to them).

    I would just like to thank you for sharing Michaela's Light with us. I beleive that her light will still save a lot of lives in one way or another.

    And I hope that the light that you are keeping alive for Michaela will one day bring her home. One day very soon.

  2. Estela, thank you for writing and God bless those little girls. Michaela and I had watched the news the summer before she was kidnapped about some other girls who had been kidnapped, and we had said that was the worst thing that could happen. I don't honestly think either of us were thinking of the darkest side of it. We were thinking of not being able to find each other.

    Be sure to tell your granddaughter that if ever something should happen, in addition to screaming and kicking, she should yell "this is not my mother" or "this is not my father" or "I'm being kidnapped" so that people around her don't think she is a bratty child who doesn't want to go where she is supposed to.

    Jaycee's book was definitely hard to read. I could only handle a little bit at a time.

    Take care and thanks again, Estela, for your message and your wishes for Michaela.


  3. Thats a good point... Thanks for the tip Sharon. I will make sure to tell them.

    I have sent a link to your blog to a friend of mine that has a little girl as well and she too says that she is now much more aware when out with her daughter.

    Regards ESta

    PS. They are my neices, don't have any kids of my own yet ;-)

  4. Oh I'm sorry Esta! That's what happens when I start reading right after I wake up in the morning. I just focused in on that word granny!


  5. Hi Sharon,

    Do you have any thoughts you are able to share on Garrido's denial of being involved with Michaela's kidnapping? I understand if you are not able to share much information.

    I am still reading Jaycee's book. I like the way she takes us right into her childhood mind, and then reflects on it as an adult through her therapist. I think she talks about the animals a lot because they are a source of comfort and love for her in the midst of deep emotional pain (the broken attachment with her mother)and the physical and mental pain (from the abuse)She turned off her pain, and cared for the animals around her. The animals seem to be the salient memory because she had to repress so much pain.

    It was also interesting to read her perception of going out into the public, wondering if anyone would recognize her. And I can't help but wonder, how many other missing kids have done this? Shawn Hornbeck had friends in his neighborhood, Elizabeth Smart walked around in disguise many others? Maybe Michaela too. Do you think Michaela may have brown hair? I noticed you had brown hair in the Unsolved video.