I always look forward to the break that we get from school and work at the end of the year. Nothing all year tops the nearly two weeks that I get to spend mostly at home and with my family. This year, I literally can’t wait. These last few days of the regular routine are excruciating, because I can’t wait to be away from the world for awhile. I need so badly to be in my house with my husband and my son, to see them, to touch them, to reassure myself that, yes, they are here. Yes, they are real.
This is all exacerbated and made more raw by the shooting last week. I still don’t feel as if I’ve come back to a normal thought process since it happened. I still cry a few times a day, quietly and quickly, trying to make sure no one notices. This tragedy has affected all of us, of course, but it’s not mine. I don’t have to live the rest of my life with it as part of my story. Jonna did an excellent job articulating a lot of this.
I also get frustrated with the small actions that we’re encouraged to take: hug your kids tighter, tell them you love them, never take one moment for granted. Yes, of course I will but what about tomorrow? My hugs aren’t bulletproof and my love won’t make this go away. Please fucking tell me that we’re not going to try to just kiss this hurt away because it’s not fucking enough.
* * *
Yesterday, during some polite chatter over lunch, a few people asked me if the kid still believed in Santa Claus. I replied honestly: “He’s on the fence.” I never formally renounced Santa Claus, which isn’t to say that I think that a man literally performs all of those legendary actions. But I do notice (or perceive) a shift at this time of year that seems to be It. He’s asked me a few times if Santa Claus is real. I’ve always asked back, “What do you think?” and he has always replied, “Kinda. Some of the kids at my school don’t think he’s real.”
“The kids at your school are no older than you and they are definitely not any wiser.”
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The other night, after we got our tree up and decorated, we did what we always do and turned off all of lights so that we could see the tree in all of its glory. The three of us cuddled together on the couch and stared up at our handiwork. We lingered a little longer than I think we ever have. It’s so confusing to be this excited at this time of year while also feeling so desperate.
I had a nightmare last night that was obviously my brain working out some of the bigger tangles of my thoughts about Sandy Hook. It was a bizarre but terrifying journey to the darkest depths of possibility, where I did what was awful but necessary, apparently: feel for a second in a hypothetical reality what those parents are feeling. I woke up hating myself for it. I shouldn’t get to entertain those thoughts when others have to endure that living nightmare forever. And who am I to think that I could possibly imagine what they’re feeling? I hate everything about this so much. Even the good moments that come out of it seem to make me sadder ultimately.
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Something that has always always made me tear up is, “Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus.” I think when I was a kid it was comforting to read something so kindly authoritative about something that can be kind of scary when you’re little. Now I love the sentiment and I love the idea of a busy grown-up taking the time to find just the right thing to say to a young reader. Coping with this particular unimaginable fear and sadness at this time of year, it suddenly seems much more poignant and necessary (and makes me sob). It’s comforting to read those words and feel them stretching across time because we now have to figure out how to explain to our children that the intangible things that make life worth living are still very much around, even though we let all of the bad things in far too often, that we still care about them and keep them safe and help them when they’re scared because otherwise the, “eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.”