I don’t know what today feels like for a teacher. But I know what it feels like for a mother. I’m betting those feelings are pretty similar, no matter your gender or the number of your offspring. It’s my baby’s birthday. His birth story is wonderful, rich with memories and love. But I can’t tell it today. We’ll save it for next year.
What I can tell you is how it felt to drop my children at school this morning. I bet it feels just like it did for you. Last night, like so many other kids around the country, they’d laid out their carefully chosen green and white outfits to honor the school colors of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. Newtown is 45 mins away. Due to my Beloved’s church responsibilities, we’ve visited the Latter-day Saint congregation there many times. One of the families who lost a child in the tragedy is part of that congregation. I’ve met them in a “hello-how-are-you-in-the-halls” kind of way, which is to say, not at all really. But the geographical proximity and the connection with a member of this amazing community brings Sandy Hook all so horribly close to home.
We prepared our children for the weekend as best we could on Friday afternoon. We heard updates on this darling family’s well-being from our church leaders at the nativity play on Saturday night and of course throughout the prayers and services yesterday. Our children have asked many expected and some unexpected questions. They were argumentative and highly charged through much of the weekend. Even though we’ve read all the articles to model calm and peacefulness, even though we’ve turned off all media except for surruptitous glances at our cell phones, they know. They know we’re troubled and anxious and worried. We’re trying so hard to keep it together. But they know. Throughout the weekend, we’ve talked and hugged and cried and explored answers and prayed and cried and prayed some more.
This morning my heart ached as they jumped out of the car. Big girl was saying the Pledge of Allegiance over the PA system and was excited and a little nervous. I stamped out thoughts of what another PA system was used for on Friday. A police man stood watch. The Principal and other teachers greeted each child with a big smile. I cried all the way home and came back to hold my baby as long as he would sit still.
Later, as I took him to pre-school in the same building, I buzzed on the locked front door. I showed my driver’s licence for the first time. I gave not only my name but my child’s name for the first time. He and I began the long walk down to his classroom at the very back of the school and I relished in his chirping and chattering.
In each door way I spied laughing, squealing kids. I saw brave teachers and school leaders. I felt the deep sense of love, watch care and guardianship emanating from each class room. As I handed him with a last “I love you birthday boy” over to his teachers and snagged a final kiss, I caught his teacher’s eye. We looked at each other with complete understanding, and then I walked out the door and cried all the way home for the second time today.
By mid morning, each of my children’s teachers updated me on how my kids were doing. I am so, so grateful for these amazing women and the leadership of an incredible Principal. I’m grateful for the shared tears and hugs and knowing exchanges with neighbors and at church over the weekend, for the individual and collective prayers, for the phone calls from family and friends all over the world, for the exchanged virtual hugs in my social media communities, for the thoughtful emails. I’m grateful for the conversations with my kids. I’m grateful for the moment my Beloved and I took to have lunch together today. Grateful we talked, grateful we cried and grateful he held me as I sobbed yet again.
Tonight there will be a favorite meal, a birthday cake, singing and presents and joy. Reality is the mess of happiness and sadness, hope and tragedy, peace and horror playing out alongside each other in the tension of daily life. So I will celebrate my son’s birthday. And grieve and pray for all the families of Sandy Hook, as well as all of our changed reality. I don’t know any other way right now.
Blessings and love to you and yours.