I know that through the years when I have complained about everyday things, people from the program have told me there is always someone who wishes they had my “problems.” For every day I wanted to lose weight, there is someone who wishes they were as “fat” as me. For every bad day on the job, there is someone who really wishes they had a job. For every day my son annoyed me, there was someone who wished they could be with their son ……. and so forth.
I reposted a blog the other night, “What Six Looks Like.” It was eloquent and if you get a chance, please read it. What an amazing writer.
I can’t possibly touch that. But have a lot on my mind about it.
That fateful Friday I heard about it at work. Another school shooting. A coworker stuck his head in my office door and asked if I had heard. I shook my head and listened attentively. He shook his head, ” An elementary school, ” he muttered. There were no numbers. No ages. Another school shooting.
When I got out of work, I turned on the news. Six-year-old’s. At that point, they were not sure of the numbers. They showed parents crying and still shots of kindergartners being led out of the school by police. One line showed the kids single file, their hands on each others’ shoulders. It looked like a field trip or a fire drill, just that ordinary. But that one girl in the middle with the horrified look on her face, the one with her mouth wide open like she was screaming ……..
Then there was a story about a teacher hiding her students in a bathroom and huddling with them. The teacher said some of them cried and said they just wanted it to be Christmas. They just wanted to be home. That tore through me.
I went and picked my son up from school. It looked so normal. My heart burst with gratitude. My heart burst with gratitude that I picked him up uneventfully at the end of the day and it never occurred to me that day to wonder if he was safe or okay or ……alive. I wanted to kiss my nine-year-old boy, but he would have hissed, “MOM. You’re EMBARRASSING me.” Showing restraint, I smiled adoringly at him and smoothed his hair before walking him home.
The news reports continued. Parents were gathered to be reunited with their children. The news stated that some lingered half an hour after the last pupils left and finally someone told them, “If you have not been reunited with your child by now it’s already over.” I cannot imagine hearing those words.
Years ago, I signed the papers to have my beloved cat euthanized. He became ill very suddenly, very unexpectedly. He was my cat for more than 10 years. I signed those dreadful papers and ran out without the cat-carrier. I heard a lady yell, “Miss?” I walked faster. Eyes locked on the door, I hightailed it through the lobby fighting tears. I couldn’t – could NOT – carry that empty carrier. THAT was heartbreaking.
It can’t possibly hold a candle to leaving some place without your child. It can’t possibly hold a candle to hearing that news – and that news delivered so callously! It can’t possibly compare with hearing the news that my son’s school is being shot up, breaking the sound barrier driving across town, expecting to see him or her rattled, expecting to give him or her a HUGE hug and take them home and give them a bubble bath and their favorite toy and a hot dinner and ……… How do you go home so abjectly empty-handed? So horribly empty-hearted?
My son got the biggest hug that night. The biggest kiss, too. Many times over.
I was glad there was balled-up, dirty socks on the floor. I was happy to swipe a sponge over ketchup streaks on the counter. I was delighted to tell him to pick up his damp towel off the bathroom floor – in a flat and even tone……not the usual frustrated burst of aggravation that comes with saying it a kazillion times. I was overwhelmed with gratitude looking at his Christmas presents stashed in my closet and knowing he would be here to open them on Christmas morning. My anxious glances at my bank statements this month seem so foolish now.
I cuddled him and he tolerated it.
I cried. I don’t usually cry.
My son said, “But mom? You cry once a year.”
And here I was crying for the children whose lives came to a screeching halt, crying for the teachers who huddled with children and protected them – the way we hope they will as strongly as we hope they never have to, crying for the parents who have to go home without their child, crying for the town that has to grieve together, crying for the children who made it out and who will never be the same, crying for the adults that died protecting those kids, crying for the gunman and either his severe untreated illness or his blackened soul, crying for the gunman’s family – the family who watched this boy grow up and had more idealistic dreams for him than this, crying for the parents who had more idealistic dreams for their 6-year-old’s, crying for the parents who wished they had been there to protect them, crying for the grandparents and aunts and uncles and siblings……….. just crying. I couldn’t stop.
My son asked what was wrong – he didn’t know yet. I paused, wondering if I ought to tell him. My snap decision was to tell him the truth, to emphasize how unusual it is, to underscore how safe I believe his school to be ……… and silently remembered how safe everyone thought Sandy Hook to be. I repeated how safe I believed his school to be. I was reassuring, sad, but not hysterical.
So my gratitude list for that day and the subsequent days is very long. I’m grateful for cooking my son dinner even when I don’t feel like it. I’m grateful for balled up dirty socks on the floor, streaks of ketchup on the counter, empty soda cans that I had not given permission to be emptied, damp towels on the bathroom floor …….. and all of the joy I get in exchange for these small irritations. There are multitudes of people out there that would love to have my aggravations. Only they’re not aggravations today. They’re very dear to me. Very dear indeed.
God Bless you, Newton, CT. God Bless you.