Sometimes when the kids are leaving my house, I send them off with the words, “Stay safe!” I guess this implies that I believe safety to be largely under their control. And for the most part, this is true.
When I say, “Stay safe!”, I mean “Don’t drink or smoke and then drive.” I mean, “Stay alert while you are walking on city streets.” To some extent, given that I am still the Mom, what I mean is “Eat your veggies. Take your vitamins. Get enough sleep.”
But lately I have started to wonder if my words are meant to be a magical incantation against bad luck. “Abracadabra: stay safe!” I am increasingly aware of the fact that safety, like life, is incredibly fragile and ephemeral. I know in my heart that a person can eat the healthiest of diets and still get cancer. We can drive carefully and alertly, with our cell phones tucked away and out of reach, and still get slammed by a careening drunk.
We can live in calm, uneventful New England, and still get hit by a deadly outbreak of tornadoes. And there is really nothing that we can do to protect ourselves.
And so I watch the news, monitor the weather, take my vitamins. I remind my grown children to get checkups every year and to keep vitamins in the house. And when I kiss them goodbye, and give them a big hug, I sprinkle what little magic I have in the air over their heads. “Bye, honey! Stay safe!”