The other day, my 5-year-old son and I engaged in a game we play frequently, where we ask each other questions that we both have to answer. The questions often start with, “What’s your favorite…” Really, it’s just an organized form of chatting.
I asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. “Paleontologist and soccer player. What do you want to be?”
I beamed at him. “I’m already grown up and I’m doing what I wanted: writing.” He stared at me, in wonder I assumed, so I continued. “I write down stories and one day they’ll be in a book like the ones on your shelves.” (I’d already told him all this, but my son’s memory of things is directly related to his appreciation for them–he can name about 800 dinosaurs.)
“Oh. Okay.” Clearly, I’d told him I had a large infection in my eye because he looked at me with such concern.
See–this is why I have to write a blog. I get no appreciation from my day job.
My first piece is up at Great New Books and I’d love it if you dropped by. I review The Snow Child (bet you thought that referred to my 5-year-old son). I’m closing comments at True STORIES, once I figure out how to do that, so CLICK HERE to swing by Great New Books and drop me a line!
With my heart and mind focused on Sandy Hook, much of what I’ve read this week will come as no surprise. A couple, though, are serendipitous. Here’s some of what I’ve laid my eyes upon this week:
- The tributes to the children murdered at Sandy Hook. I don’t seek these out, but once I find them, I commit. I do it because I’m a mother and these parents are enduring my nightmare. Because I am overwhelmingly sorry for them and I want to somehow honor their child. And because, yes, I’m grateful it isn’t me. It isn’t my child. So I try to share, somehow, in the pain. I cry for the goofy grins, the lost two front teeth, the shining blue eyes, for the artist, the singer and maybe a bit harder for the one who loved to write in her journal and make up stories.
- Arguments in support of more guns. Even when I know what’s in my heart, I sometimes like to test it. So I listen to the other side; I try it out, see what it feels like to advocate that side. When I feel a cringe in my gut, I know my original instinct was right.
- The Snow Child, a novel about an Alaska couple who cannot have children and make a “snow child” one night. Soon after, a child of the woods begins appearing at their cabin and their wish seems to have come true.
- An email from my uncle, in which he writes:
We will carry the banner to have stricter gun control laws, we will carry the banner to make it impossible for someone with mental health issues to purchase a gun. We can even ban the sale of semi-automatic assault weapons to everyone. Although I favor all of these items I do not believe it will solve the problem.
We are a violent society. We have always been a violent society. We gained our independence through acts of aggression. Our granddad was a young man during the WWI. Our dad was in WWII. Korea, Vietnam, the Middle-east. The most popular TV sports event in this country is football. Boxing with 16-ounce padded gloves has been replaced in popularity by basically street fighting within a confined space and a referee. The most violent blood and guts movies continue to be the most popular. I definitely cannot even begin to identify a solution. I do not know how you turn an entire society around to become less violent. I do not even know if it is something that I will witness. I hope I do.
After Friday I could only feel sad. Sad for the families. Sad for the community and sad for this country that something of that magnitude could happen within a few minutes and no one will ever know why. Most of all I feel sad for you and all the young parents in this country who will never send your children out the door again without wondering, “What if.”
- Even the word “statistics” is nauseating. But I hope you’ll read, as I did, the following info from the Children’s Defense Fund (I refrained from italicizing or bolding almost 100% of this paragraph; it is just stunning.): There were 173 firearm-related deaths of preschool-age children between 2008 and 2009. That number was nearly twice the 89 deaths of law-enforcement officers killed in the line of duty. Likewise, the total number of children and teenagers killed by gun violence that year exceeded the number of military personnel who died in battle in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. Of the world’s 23 wealthiest countries, the United States accounts for 80 percent of all gun-related deaths and 87 percent of all gun deaths for children under 15.
- Statements like, “Here we go again: everyone’s ranting about gun control and then they’ll just go back to their regular lives.” And I’d like, for a moment, to speak up for those of us who are so predictable as that: Of course we’ll go back to our regular lives. That’s more than okay–it’s necessary. But while we are fired up, we should fire up. While we are sad, we should cry. While we are motivated, we should work. For however long it lasts. Because we’re not merely jumping on a bandwagon. Our hearts hurt. Twenty little angels have given politicians the courage to begin talking. Perhaps if our grief is loud enough, those in charge of our laws and funding programs will continue to listen. Maybe our own energy is strong enough, this time, to last, even as it wanes.
- And finally, it’s been many years since I read the following poem by Tennessee Williams and I came across it again this week at My Unpublished Life, in a post unrelated to Sandy Hook:
We have not long to love
We have not long to love.
Light does not stay.
The tender things are those
we fold away.
Coarse fabrics are the ones
for common wear.
In silence I have watched you
comb your hair.
Intimate the silence,
dim and warm.
I could but did not, reach
to touch your arm.
I could, but do not, break
that which is still.
(Almost the faintest whisper
would be shrill.)
So moments pass as though
they wished to stay.
We have not long to love.
A night. A day….
Merry Christmas all, in spirit if not religion. Cherish your dimpled hands and your liver-spotted ones, your fiery warm homes and wintery cold walks. And your uniquely human sense of hope.