Monday, May 13, 2013

For Sandy Hook (written December 15, 2012)

Something really bad happened to Bug last weekend. I let him jump off a diving board in a friend's arms, and came up choking and crying. He had water up his nose and he swallowed it, an awful feeling I remember from my own childhood diving board accidents. It was a parenting mistake of the first order, mine. I held him in my arms as he cried out the misery of it, and then sat him on the side of the pool.

After less than a minute, he sneezed water all over my head, which made him laugh. As I marveled at his powers of resilience, I encouraged him to swim toward the end of the pool where our stuff was, since he wanted to and I thought it might do him good to have his last memory before we left be swimming, instead of that awful drowning feeling. He swam some, and paused to barf up the water he had swallowed. I called it "upchuck," which he thought was absolutely hilarious. I thanked what gods there be for his good humor and resilience, and wished, not for the first time, that I was as brave as he is.

I will not recover as quickly from the awful tragedy in Connecticut. Two family friends lost children in Newtown, and a niece remembers the principal of Sandy Hook elementary from when she was her high school principal in Danbury. This is the third mass shooting where I have lost people I knew, or been one person removed from. The first was a 2002 shooting at the University of Arizona, where I was teaching. An angry student killed three professors before killing himself. Because his body was not immediately found, however, we all spent hours believing there was a gunman loose on campus. The second shooting, the one that included Gabriel Giffordswell, everyone in Tucson knew someone. These tragedies feel cumulative, each one echoing the other down the corridor of memory. Perhaps that's external, too, as the media and even the gunmen quote the others.

After the hard, horrible day of absorbing the scope of the tragedy in Connecticut (and making sure Bug didnt hear a word of it; there are some things I will try to protect him from), we took our little one to see Christmas lights at a nearby park. And as trite as it all was, including Santa and Mrs. Claus, there was comfort in its ordinariness, and his awe at the beauty of it. And so tonight I hold my baby close and mourn for all of us, for every parent who cannot hold their child, for all these guns we have set loose on the world, from Egypt to South Africa to Haiti to Guatemala and Mexico, and no less on ourselves.

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