Wednesday, December 19, 2012

our first job

Everywhere we go, this...tragedy? (is that even the right word?) is written all over the faces of everyone we see.  We don't say anything--for the children's sake, of course--but it's there.  It's the longer-than-usual eye contact with a woman at the market, her six-year-old daughter in tow.  It's in the heavy eyelids of our post-mistress; it lurks behind the jolly Christmas music in the produce isle.  It was just beneath the bright smiles of unusually patient parents as they waited in line with their kids to sit on Santa's lap.  
Juniper was scared to death to go to bed last night.  After we clapped five times for the bears and then the lions, I announced that big, strong mama can scare anything away; I kissed her on the forehead and said I was sending sweet dreams straight to her brain, I flipped her pillow to the "good dream" side, I did everything we have ever done in any given night to make her feel safe, but last night it wasn't enough.  She cried and begged and pleaded and said she just wanted "to snuggle with mama."  Oh, I nearly melted.  I curled up with her in the tiny little toddler bed, nuzzled my nose into her damp, clean hair.  She held my cheeks and kissed my face.  I started to drift off, then remembered I was in a fetal position in a toddler bed.  The instant I tried to move an arm, to peel myself away, Juniper tightened her grip, moaned, Noooooo, and wrapped her arms fast around my neck as though she were floating out to sea and I was her buoy.
Juniper doesn't know what happened on Friday, of course.  But lying there in her tiny bed, it occurred to me that she's picking up on the vibe.  I kissed her and stroked her hair, her cheeks.  I told her that she'll always be safe in mama and daddy's house.  I told her we'll always be there for her and we'll never leave.  She kept saying, "I'm scary."  (Meaning, "I'm scared.")  I tried to get her to name what she was afraid of, but she couldn't.  She just looked around her room, stuttering, then landed on the clothes hanging above her nightlight.  "I'm scary of my clothes."  I told her I would move her clothes and just like that, she loosened her grip and let me go.          
In the words of another blogger:
"My kids do not know what happened on Friday.  I hope it is a story I never have to explain to them. Because how can I? I can not comprehend it myself, much less translate it to my innocent six year old. Children - all children - deserve to live a childhood knowing they are safe. I'll do what I can to keep that belief alive."

We do not watch, nor do we have, television.  All of the news we've gleaned from NPR and a handful of internet articles.  Still, with Juniper, I think we'll need to be more careful.  She has asked us several times if we were sad.  We told her we'd heard a story that happened far away and made us very, very sad.  And then we told her how very much we loved her and how happy she makes us.  She smiled and giggled and asked us to read her another book.

This is not what I intended to write.  I wanted just to catch you all up on our holiday fervor.  But I just couldn't sit down and not acknowledge the thing that has lodged itself into the heart of our nation.  People who never cry, are crying.

"This is our first task -- caring for our children.  It’s our first job.  If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right.  That’s how, as a society, we will be judged."  ~ President Obama, Newtown, CT  

Up next: holiday fervor.  Promise.

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