Most of us know the importance of a mother’s love, and those of us who have had the good fortune to experience firsthand the bond of attachment that can develop between a mother and her child would appreciate how vital this is to a kid’s mental, emotional and social development.
Maria Reid is not so fortunate. Her thoughts of childhood have long been marred by memories of deep emotional pain and suffering. She was a victim of parental child abduction.
She has struggled for years to come to terms with what she says was a traumatic experience, the likes of which only those who have lived it could know what it feels like. Born in the United Kingdom, in the East London borough of Hackney, her parents, both Jamaicans, had emigrated to England in the early sixties. In Maria’s just-released autobiography A Strange Mother, she recounts her harrowing life story.
Set partly in England and partly in Jamaica, A Strange Mother is the evocative and dramatic true-life story of Maria’s relationship with her mother whom she claims kidnapped her from her father after she had lost custody of her. In what Maria views as a deliberate act of revenge, her mother took her away to Jamaica and they lived there for over fifteen years.
“My mother made a decision that would change my life. I was never to see my dad or know him. She decided to emigrate to the Caribbean with me at the age of two, unannounced, with no finances or place to live. Her intention was to escape the law and take revenge on my father,” says Maria.
During that time, she says they lived “in severe hardship,” and she was “subjected to mental, psychological and physical abuse.”
Years later, Maria returned to the UK. Subsequently when she reunited with her mother, she said she made some shocking discoveries about “the dark world” that she had been subjected to as a child – a world characterised by “powerful and often evil spells” and a “supernatural power.”
“Writing the story was a challenge, especially chapters 2- 4,” says Maria. “There were events in my life that I had locked away as a child that suddenly reappeared. It was difficult, shocking, painful, disturbing memories – hatred. It came to a point where I wanted to close back the door which I had kept locked for so many years as the memories came flooding back.
“There were times I had to walk away from the computer. It was as if the more I dug deeper into my thoughts, the more it hurt. I feared I might not be able to come back to reality and be trapped, reliving the horrific torture and frustration. The pain just kept flooding back. Many events in my life that had gone unanswered became clearer and I was able to see the truth eventually.”
For Maria, writing the book has been a cathartic experience. “I am very pleased I wrote A Strange Mother. I now have closure for most of my dark past, just like a burial, although this unusual gift of seeing the past, future and present in my dreams goes on. There are some chapters in the book I have avoided or not revisited since I wrote the book because of the hurt.”
A Strange Mother puts parental child abduction back in the spotlight and highlights what the FBI, EUROPOL, the European Parliament and the US Department of Justice have all cited as a continuing international problem.
As noted by Wikipedia, a parent who abducts a child is usually ‘seeking to gain an advantage in expected or pending child custody proceedings or because that parent fears losing the child in those expected or pending child-custody proceedings.’ Sometimes they may flee with the child ‘to prevent an access visit or [out of] fear of domestic violence and abuse.’
According to statistics from the Reunite International Child Abduction Centre, 70 percent of the charity’s cases concern mothers taking the child.
Child victims are mostly between two and eleven years old; about 75% are six years old or younger and two-thirds of the cases involve one child, says the California Child Abduction Child Force.
The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is an international human rights treaty and legal mechanism dedicated to protecting children from the harmful effects of international abduction by a parent by ‘encouraging the prompt return of abducted children to their country of habitual residence, and to organize or secure the effective rights of access to a child.’ The list of nations that are party to the Hague Abduction Convention shows that only three islands in the Caribbean are signatories to the Convention – Trinidad & Tobago, St Kitts & Nevis and the Dominican Republic.
Intent on sharing her life experience and ordeals with the world, Maria says she has the full backing of her family. “I have two children and my family is very supportive of me going public. We have had so many experiences which have affected us. I wanted to share with the world my story and experiences to help prevent an individual making the same mistakes or falling into the same trap.
“What I would like readers to take away from the book is your close friend, even your mother, could be your worst enemy. I have received feedback from people who say they find my story sad and painful but, most of all, they’re happy for me that I’ve gotten away from such a horrific experiences as a child, and have been able to rise above my past and become successful.”