Thursday, December 20, 2012


I am a realist.  I grew up in countries around the world and was, from an early age, exposed to war (Israel and El Salvador), extreme poverty (India and Papua New Guinea), the ravages of Cold War totalitarianism (Romania).  I have a positive outlook on life, but I harbor no illusions about what life is like for many, many people in the world (i.e., nasty, brutish and short).

I actually think things are far better now than they have ever been.  Advances in medicine, advances in civil rights, social safety nets, a reduced crime rate -- they all contribute to make our lives, particularly here in America, pretty good, on average, and certainly as compared to 100 or 200 or 1000 years ago.

Of course, bad things happen all the time.  Human beings suffer all the time.  But life is for the living, so I try to keep my head up and do the best that I can for myself and my family, without letting negativity weigh me down.

So I'm surprised that I'm continuing to have such a hard time dealing with the school shooting in Connecticut.  It's perfectly normal to be sad and horrified, and to want societal changes that will reduce the likelihood of that kind of mass-killing to recur.  And I'm not suddenly worried for my children's safety in any heightened sense -- I don't worry about them being at school, or playing outside.

But when I close my eyes, I see a classroom filled with bullet-riddled teachers who have tried in vain to protect bullet-riddled children.  It's an image I can't shake.  It's an image that feels so real to me.  I feel a cold clutch in my chest, a desperate desire to turn back the clock so that this unimaginable horror could be undone.

I've never been this affected by an event that I wasn't personally connected to.  I'm haunted by it.  I'm not sleeping very much.  I'm constantly on the verge of tears.

Maybe because I have small children, including one who is so close in age to the 6 and 7 year-olds who were so senselessly slaughtered.  I have a sense of what was truly lost.

When I come home from work and walk in the door, the kids are usually on the couch hanging out or watching a dinosaur documentary or something, winding down from their day and waiting for me.  And every time I enter the house, I hear excited shouts of "Mama!!"  Zeke is usually naked, because he tends to be when he is in the house, but it still makes me laugh every time.  And he will run up to me and jump into my arms and tell me about his day.

"All green today, Mama!"*

"Me too, Mama!  I had an all green day too!"  Josie exclaims.

"That is outstanding, way to go!"

And they'll chatter and tell me whatever is on their minds and ask me to come and snuggle with them and give me hugs and kisses and tell me how much they love me.

It's the best part of my day.

I find myself imbuing these littlest moments with such significance, as if each were the last, like I'm trying to make up for what the poor parents of the murdered children can no longer do.

Today is Zeke's last day of school before going on Christmas break for 2 1/2 weeks, and his class is doing pajama day.  He'll be going to school with Josie tomorrow for her last day before break, and her class is doing pajama day as well.

This is the greatest thing in the world to Zeke.

"Mama, I am so, so lucky.  I get to do two pajama days in a row!"

This morning, we put him in his adorable footie PJs with the sports balls all over them, and he couldn't stop grinning. He was so excited he was practically vibrating.   He was about as happy as he could be, and it was infectious, which meant that everyone around him got to feel the joy of being 5 years old and getting to hang out with your friends in your pajamas all day, playing games and watching movies and being silly.

He's not the only lucky one.  I am as well, as is every parent out there who gets to enjoy their children for another day.

I just wish I could get those horrible images out of my head.

*The kids in his class are on a green/yellow/red behavior system.  "Green" means behavior is great and all privileges are in place. Josie's school has no such system, but she has adopted it for herself nonetheless.

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