As a parent, when children are targeted, it hits a very personal space in your heart. At least it does mine. It doesn't matter how old my child is compared to theirs. It doesn't matter that I don't know you or that I've never seen your son or daughter before. It makes it hard to swallow because tonight and every night since the shooting and every night from today - there is a parent crying a gut wrenching, soul shattering sob at the sight of a bed full of stuffed animals, a room painted a pale shade of pink with a dollhouse looking unnaturally lonely in a room that is now empty when it should be occupied with a little girl tucked in safely asleep with a night-light glowing beside her head. There will be a parent staring into a darkened room cluttered with toy cars and trains, with a t-ball bat leaning on the side of the wall crying softly and asking into the night to noone in particular "why my baby". These are the thoughts that consume me without the distractions of the outside. I can almost hear the whispers of the parents wondering "what do we do now", the sobbing of guilt ridden parents wishing they'd sent their son or daughter off with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without such a fight or the frustration they showed because the kids weren't putting on their coats quickly enough on the rush out the door, the prayers for someone to keep their angels safe, the cursing God for taking away their most precious part of life. This is what goes through my mind when I allow myself to think about it. I can't fathom what these families must be going through in their torment.
My daughter sleeps soundly in her bed, in her pink comforter and polka dot sheets, stuffed bunny tucked under one arm and a small yellow pillow tucked under the other, breathing softly and occasionally mumbling. I know the night before the incident, all the parents with their kids safely tucked away in much the same way felt the same thing I do most nights - "ahhh finally, some peace and quiet" not knowing that tragedy would take away the life you knew in a matter of single night.
I didn't allow myself to think very much about the incident. Mostly because I'll panic. My thoughts will run wild with the what-ifs and when you're already in a gray zone in the feel-too-much department, those thoughts will consume you and make you handicap. I'm good at shutting down and compartmentalizing things. I did just that all weekend. I shopped for Christmas as I'd planned to do. I played with my little girl, we ate junk food - more than I normally would allow, we shopped, we laughed, we teased, I still got frustrated with her, and I still made her eat all her food like the bully parent that I am. She still had to say all her please-s, sorries, and thank you-s, but I'd catch a moment where my thoughts would drift to the incident of the shooting and my heart would constrict and I'd kiss her lightly on her nose. I would ignore the sad thoughts and bring myself back to the present because as selfish as this will sound - I still have my baby to nuzzle into that makes her squirm and yell "no mommy, no kiss neck", to make silly faces with, to squeeze her cheeks because it makes her laugh hysterically, to yell at because she wouldn't eat her lunch, to squeeze the jelly out of donut holes while waiting to pay for all the things we gathered at the stores and laugh as if it were the funniest thing ever. I didn't want the thoughts of Newtown, CT associated with her in any way to take away the moment I needed to enjoy her.
I was kept busy. We spent a good amount of time outdoors, at the outlet, watching throngs of people going about their shopping expedition and flowing along with the crowds. Kept well distracted by the TV at the end of a long shopping day eating take out Chinese food from the containers over mindless conversation. I spent the remainder joining in on the fun of friends getting together for the holidays over drinks, great food, overwhelming quantities of cakes, pastries, laughs and jokes, endless banter and chatter.
It's quiet and dark now and since I'm left without much distraction, the much ignored thoughts and feelings arising from the incident of the shooting weigh heavily replaying in my head - a version possibly thought up in my own mind from the pieces I couldn't help but hear on the news, or maybe that's exactly how it happened. The terror and fear, the knot and weight, the anxiety and the panicky feelings bubble just beneath the surface because I am aware that these things happen all around the world, and unfortunately, they happen far too often and there are no exceptions.
I don't like the sugar coating and the truth is, none of these families will get over what happened because there's no explaining something so tragic, something so senseless, so brutal. It should serve as a reminder for the rest of us far more fortunate that it's okay if you're running late and your daughter has her shoes on the wrong feet or that you're on the way out and your son has to go to the bathroom the minute you pull out of your driveway because at least, at the very least, we can put our daughter's shoes on properly and the worst that can happen is that our sons don't make it all the way to the bathroom and we have just a little more laundry. We still sleep tonight knowing that they're in the next room, safely tucked away in their rooms dreaming sweet dreams. There are parents now out there whose time expired to enjoy even those moments that make us want to scream and pull our hair out. This should also serve as a reminder that it could've been any of us and there are no guarantees in life. There is no order in which we are to live or die. We only have the cards we hold.
Still my heart and mind fail to grasp the how in all this and what I see when I hear these stories is the sweet face of my baby girl and that is enough to unravel me entirely. Just the simple thought of the possibility is enough to undo me at the seams.