What if


I hesitate to write this post.

I don’t want to add to the general sense of hysteria out there, on this morning after the acquittal.  But I tossed and turned a lot last night, and I just have one big question that keeps coming to mind.   Just one.

See, I didn’t watch countless hours of the trial on TV, and I didn’t read every word written by every legal “expert”.  I couldn’t.  A seventeen year old boy was dead, and I didn’t want to keep hearing those screams for help, no matter who was screaming.

So I don’t honestly have an opinion on whether the shooter was a racist or not. I don’t know him.   I don’t know if the victim reacted out of fear or anger or frustration when he knew that some “creepy” guy was stalking him.  I don’t know either of them, and I wasn’t there.  I don’t think its right for me to act as if I know what really happened or what motivated either of the people who was actually involved in the tragedy.

But I just have this one question, and I can’t get away from it.

What if the shooter hadn’t had a loaded gun hidden in a pocket?

If the guy wasn’t holding a loaded weapon, I wonder if maybe he would have been smart enough to have stayed in his vehicle, like he was told to do by the police dispatcher?  I wonder if he would have told himself, “This kid looks really dangerous (since that’s what prompted the whole incident, right?)”.  I wonder if he would have thought, “I better stay safe in my car.”  Did that loaded gun give the shooter a sense of power? Did it prompt him to follow a guy who he clearly described as suspicious?

I wonder.

And what if the shooter had had gun, but what if it wasn’t concealed? 

Would the boy have pushed down his anger and frustration over being followed by a creepy stalker, and would the sight of that weapon have prompted him to rush home, instead of standing up to the guy and confronting him?

I wonder.

This was such a senseless, stupid, mindless, wasteful death of a child.  So blindly, mind-numbingly stupid, stupid, stupid.

I don’t know if society, at least at this moment in time, can stop people from having racial prejudices. I don’t know.

And I don’t know if we can stop weak and powerless people from wanting to pump up their own self-image by imitating the macho strengths of the police.  I just don’t know.

I’m not sure that we can stop young men from reacting impulsively to perceived slights/threats/challenges. A developing brain is a developing brain; common sense, it seems, comes slowly to the human species.  I don’t know how we can speed that up.

But I do know that we, as a society, could have prevented this kid’s death.

Until we are finally willing to stand up and say, “It is just plain stupid and dangerous to let average imperfect human beings walk around with loaded weapons hidden on their bodies.”, we are going to have to keep dealing with needless, senseless, wasteful death.

And I just realized that I have another question ringing through my head this morning:

Does that shooter now regret carrying a loaded gun in his pocket?

I wonder.SONY DSC

Les Mis


imgresMany years ago…twelve years?  Fifteen? I don’t remember exactly, but “many years ago”, when my children were still very young, my sister Mary introduced us to the musical “Les Mis”.  I don’t remember details, but I do remember that we suddenly found ourselves in possession of the “Dreamcast” DVD.  Kate and I fell in love with the music, the romance, and drama of it all, and we began to listen to it almost every afternoon, as I made dinner.

My two little boys, then only about 6 and 8 years old, loved to stack up pillows in the hall to make the “barricades”.  As the musical played, they would act out each event. Poor Paul would come home for dinner to find us shouting out the lyrics to “Red; the blood of angry men!  Black; the dark of ages past!” We were absolutely swept away by the magic and power of that music.

Over the years, the soundtrack to the musical of Les Mis became a part of our family history.  Mary and I took our daughters to see a production in Boston when they were only teenagers. And one time Kate and I were so engrossed in singing along to the soundtrack that we completely missed our highway exit, and had to travel some eighty miles out of our way to get back to our route.

So we come to tonight.  The film version of the iconic musical had come out, and my sister Mary had already convinced us that it was wonderful.   I had to go and see it! I had to!  Kate was just as determined as I was, and we made a plan to meet up tonight at the local theater.  I bought the tickets; she bought the popcorn.

We were both excited and happy as the opening credits began to roll. This would be so much fun!

Only, it wasn’t fun at all.  It was beautiful, and epic and gorgeous.  The acting was absolutely stunning, at least to me.  I came home more than half in love with Hugh Jackman, and dazed by the power of Ann Hathaway as “Fantine”.

But my eyes are swollen, my heart is aching, and my throat is raw.  I cried and cried and cried, through the whole two and a half hour event.

You see, I was there at the movies with my little girl.  I used to sing to her, “Come to me, Cosette, the day is dying…..”  And here she was, right beside me, her hand held tight in mine.

I was there, healthy and strong, and sitting with my girl.  Knowing that I have two friends who had to endure the death of their own little girl, a kindergartener, this past summer.

I was there, knowing that my two boys, my activist sons, were safe in their apartment, most likely making music of their own as the music in the theater filled my heart. No one was shooting at them.

As the film went on, I tried to keep my composure, watching the naive boys on the barricades as they tried to create a revolution in the streets.  I tried to focus on the excessive drama and romanticism of the story. I tried to laugh at the obviously fake butterflies flitting by as Cosette and Marius met and fell in love through the wrought iron fence in the moonlight.

And I was doing pretty well, too.  Right up until the moment when I was caught completely off guard when the little boy, Gavroche, the mascot of the Revolution, was gunned down in the street, and the camera focused in on his beautiful, innocent child’s face.  That was when life and  the movies collided for me, and I couldn’t begin to stop my tears. His face in that moment was the face of all those innocent children killed in Newtowne. I had to hold my hand over my mouth to stop from crying out loud.

I used to think that luck and virtue were somehow connected, that those of us who live charmed lives must somehow have proven ourselves worthy.

I don’t think that anymore.

Now I know that finding myself hand-in-hand with my daughter is a gift that is not of my making.  I know that my sons’ trips to New York and Chicago as part of the Occupy Movement, and (more importantly) their safe trips back home, were merely some kind of cosmic luck.  And I can’t begin to know how long that luck will last.

Every day is a gift.  Every family visit, every shared dinner, every song, every meal, every laugh; they are all gifts that are bestowed by a benevolent universe on those who happen to drift past.

“To love another person is to see the face of God.”

Limp….


Christmas is over.

Phew.

We had the whole crowd here, complete with one “significant other”, some friends, and our “granddog”, Miss Izzy.

Everything was lovely, even if the dogs did have to be separated at times.  We had a huge and festive Christmas breakfast,

Bacon!  You have to have bacon......

Bacon! You have to have bacon……

 

And we opened all the loot.

Sweet pile of swag

Sweet pile of swag

 

We laughed, we swapped stories, we soaked in the hot tub together (even though we couldn’t really fit and half the water sloshed out…….) and we reminded ourselves of how lucky we are that we are all still able to be together on these special days.

For me, the best and sweetest moments were those little ones: running to get some last minute groceries with Tim on Christmas eve, waking up on Christmas morning, and realizing that all three of my children were once again under my roof.  Sitting quietly at the table and listening to the jokes and stories of my three, Kate’s Sam, and the two old friends who had come to share our Christmas dinner.  It has been so incredibly long since I have been able to sit back and look at a full table!

That was the toast that I made, champagne glass in hand, lump in my throat: “A toast to the pleasure of having all of you around my table once again!”

This morning, I woke up late.  I lay still for a bit, feeling my achy muscles. The house was quiet, but it didn’t make me sad this time.  This morning, I could still feel the vibrating energy of all those voices, all that love, all of the celebrating.  This morning, the memories of the holiday are blending gently with the memories of holidays past, and I am content to soak in the atmosphere, still filled with my children’s presence.

Today, we are tired.

Tucker and Sadie are spent, having used up all of their doggy energy in trying to get to know Izzy, and trying to figure out how to share the couch.

Tuck had no problem sharing with Izzy.

Tuck had no problem sharing with Izzy.

 

Sadie was a little bit less welcoming.

Sadie was a little bit less welcoming.

Paul and I are spent, too.  We have been busy the past few days, cleaning, wrapping, cooking, organizing, decorating, then celebrating as if we were still in our 20’s!  The late nights, rich foods and bubbly drinks have all taken a toll, and today we are feeling pretty limp.

But its a good “limp”.  Its the kind of boneless lethargy that comes from having done it right.  My heart is resting today; it can’t take any more joyful tears as I look at my children.  It can’t take any more sorrowful tears as I think of the 20 mothers who can’t look at theirs.  My brain is resting; it doesn’t have any more energy to plan another meal for my crew.  It certainly has no more energy for trying to find a way to end the senseless violence that has gripped our entire country.

Today I am limp.  I am resting on the couch, tea cup in hand, watching TV as the weathermen predict a foot of snow.

The house is warm, and clean and quiet.  The dogs are snoring, and Paul is reading a book.

I am limp.

And its a very good feeling.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

 

 

Six sentence Sunday?


I have seen this idea, the “Six Sentence Sunday” on several blogs lately.

I don’t really understand it, or know how to play this particular game.

But here is my attempt to comply, as I do my best to reflect on my feelings at this moment in time.

“My baby girl has come home from her latest creative adventures.  She is safe and whole and happy.   I stayed up far too late last night, awaiting her safe arrival on home turf.  Why am I so incredibly lucky and blessed to have my three children safe and whole and unhurt here within the borders of my loving arms?  I can’t begin to know why mine are the prayers that have been answered.  I only know that I have not earned this special blessing.”

I am so happy to have children who are willing to explore the world, and who are happy to learn and grow and discover new ideas and beliefs.  I am so blessed, and so inexplicably lucky to have children who have lived long enough to grow up, to see the world, to find new answers to those age old questions. I am so lucky, so very, very lucky, to be one of the mom’s who follows “flight tracker” until the happy moment when my baby child lands safely back in her nest.

It takes a village


You all know the old saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.”

Well, tonight I am realizing just how true that cliche really is, and how much more there is to the story than simply the raising of the child.

About 15 years ago, I met a sweet young kindergarten teacher. She was gentle, thoughtful, very beautiful, and she possessed an innocence of spirit that made this older woman want to hold her close and help her through the struggles of public school teaching.   She and I worked together with many children, she as the classroom teacher, me as the speech/language specialist and special education connection.

I remember watching her mature, watching as she learned the ropes and developed her skills in teaching and in meeting with anxious parents.

And I remember, so clearly, one Valentine’s morning.  I was in her classroom to help with a reading lesson.  Suddenly, a group of men stood in the doorway, wearing black vests and bowties.  The tallest of them, sporting a wicked grin and an armful of long-stemmed red roses, said, “Dave sent us to serenade you!”  The four men came into the room, arranged themselves around the little tables filled with cut out paper and crayons, and began to sing.  The lush harmonies of a barbershop quartet competed with the giggles of delighted five year olds, and the teacher stood motionless in blushing beauty.

I remember when her sweetheart (another of my colleagues) proposed, and she accepted. I remember seeing photos of their wedding.

And I can clearly remember when they announced that they were expecting their first child.  She was still the kindergarten teacher, and he was teaching phys ed, keeping the hordes of active children in check with his firm, calm, gentle hand. All of us at school were delighted for them! It was such a sweet story, and we all basked in its warmth.

I remember meeting that sweet first born girl shortly after her birth, and I remember my pleasure when I found out that she was going to be a big sister.

When the second daughter was born, I remember attending an end-0f-year party with the parents and both little girls. I can recall, so clearly, shooing the parents into the back yard to relax a bit and to let their toddler play while I held the sleeping infant girl in my arms. I remember her smell, the softness of her golden hair.  I remember the laughs, at my expense, when other teachers called me “Nonni-wannabe” and teased me about my skills as a baby rocker extraordinaire.

I remember the shock that I felt three years ago when we were told that the younger child, the sweet golden haired baby, had been diagnosed with leukemia. I remember the sorrow, the helplessness, the prayers.

I wished on falling stars for her recovery. I picked four-leaf-clovers.  I prayed, I sang, I tried to make bargains with God.

With all of my colleagues, and with all of the friends and family and neighbors of this young family, I baked and made suppers. We raised money to help defray the terrible costs, we donated gift cards, we wrote checks.  We hoped, we offered encouragement, we engaged in every kind of magical thinking.

For three long, long, years this family has fought the good fight against a vicious and insatiable disease.  That little girl and her Momma were away from home for over a year, trying everything to keep her alive. Her big sister and her cat and her Dad stayed at home, working to keep the home fires alight.

For three terrible, deceitful years that poor little kid underwent every possible treatment to defeat her awful foe.  She struggled, she fought, she kept going against all odds. By all accounts, she kept on laughing, kept on demanding, kept on living as long as she possibly could.

Last night, after so much pain and so much suffering, her little seven year old body could take no more, and she succumbed.

How do we make sense of such a thing?  What can we possibly say to explain how such an unfair and unwarranted event could be allowed to happen? Where is God? What is he thinking? Where is the plan? What purpose was served here?

I have no words to put meaning to what this loving, kind, generous family has had to endure.

What I am left with is this: Every day is a gift.  Every child is a blessing.  Every life is worth everything.  We must all take care of each other, every day.  And in honor of this brave, strong warrior of a girl, we owe it to all of the children on earth to fight as hard as we can to ensure that they live well for every minute that is granted to them.

It takes a village to raise a child. And it takes a village to mourn a child, and to comfort and support those who are left behind by the loss of that child.

In honor of Meg,  3/25/05-7/4/12

What if…..?


As a teacher, I play the game of “what if” fairly often.  It helps children to think in novel ways, to ask good questions and to imagine a variety of outcomes.  “What if” the narrator in the book “Number the Stars” had been too frightened to carry the message that outwitted the Nazis?  “What if” the Minutemen on Lexington Green had not dared to muster before the British arrived that morning? “What if” the British commander had been more temperate, had not called them “damned rebels”?  What if?

I watched the news this morning about the bail hearing for George Martin, the man who has admitted to shooting and killing Trayvon Martin.  And all I can think is “What if?”

What if there had been no loaded gun?

I have no way of knowing what George Zimmerman was thinking that rainy night. I don’t know if he was frightened by the appearance of a man in a hood, by the black face that the man wore, or by the idea that strangers were walking through the neighborhood.

I don’t know what scared George Z.  But something clearly made him uncomfortable, and made him call the police.

But what if there had been no loaded gun?

Zimmerman would still have felt threatened, by whatever it was in the way Trayvon walked/looked/acted.  He would have still felt violated in some way, although we will never know exactly why.  But in the absence of a gun, what would have changed?

I’m sure that Zimmerman would still have called the police.  He was upset. He took his job as “neighborhood watch” very seriously. He would have called, he would have described the young man using the same judgmental terms: “he’s up to no good” and “he’s on drugs or something.”  He would have still felt affronted somehow by the fact that “its raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.”

But what if there had been no gun?

Given that George felt so threatened, and was so positive that the man in the sweatshirt was up to no good, I have to wonder whether he would have taken the risk of following and confronting him.  If he didn’t have a loaded gun, would George really have gone out of his car to push a confrontation with Trayvon?

Let’s go one step further, and let’s presume that George would have actually stepped out of the safety of his vehicle to confront a guy who seemed to be “up to no good” and “on drugs or something.”  Let’s presume, just for the sake of argument, that George would have asked the young man what he was doing.

In the absence of a loaded gun, wouldn’t Trayvon have produced his Skittles and his Arizona Iced Tea, and wouldn’t that have ended the conflict?  What if?

But perhaps the young man would have been scared by the stranger in the van who first pursued him by vehicle and then took the risk of chasing him on foot.  Perhaps the boy would have continued to run when faced with a scary stranger on a dark and rainy street.  Let’s assume that George could have caught up to Trayvon as he ran.  What if there had been NO GUN?  Maybe Trayvon would have thrown a punch. Maybe George would have fallen. Maybe they would have fought.

But: no one would be dead. No one would be on trial for murder.

What if there had been no loaded gun?

Maybe, just maybe, all of those who pushed for so called “stand your ground” laws should be feeling some shame today. Maybe all of those who have supported the “concealed weapons” laws should be questioning themselves right now.

Maybe those of us who gave up the fight for sensible gun laws in the face of the NRA’s millions of dollars should hang our heads and feel some guilt about what happened in Florida.

Maybe all of us in this increasingly gun crazy, shoot ’em up, “NRA rules” country should get together, hold hands and ask ourselves:

What if there had been no damned gun that night?

Enough!


I am sitting here watching the news, and I am just speechless.

I am listening to the story of a “neighborhood watch” member- a civilian with no police training- who shot and killed an unarmed teenaged boy. The boy scared the man for unknown reasons; perhaps it was the color of his skin, perhaps it was his hooded sweatshirt. Neither, as far as I know, is a crime; but the man with the gun felt threatened, so he followed the boy and shot him down on the street.  Shot him dead for no reason that anyone has been able to explain.

I am listening to a story about a trial in the city of Boston, the trial of some gang members who shot and killed a mother and her baby because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.  The shooter saw the Mom, saw the baby, and shot anyway.  He had a gun, so he used it.

A few days ago, I had to explain to my fifth grade students how a student with a gun got angry at some other teenagers and shot up the school cafeteria. I had to try to reassure them that a similar situation wouldn’t happen in our school, in our town.

Where are the screams of outrage? Where are the marchers in the streets, demanding that we get the damn guns off the streets? Where is the anger?

How can we possibly think that it is acceptable for “neighborhood watch” people to act out their Clint Eastwood fantasies by shooting at anyone who looks suspicious to them?  What kind of a country would say that any person who wants to own a handgun- a HANDGUN whose only purpose is the killing of human!- can own one?

I am disgusted, angry, sad and outraged.  If we truly care about human life, if we value the lives and the safety of our children, we will demand that guns be firmly controlled and used only by those who are trained and only in very limited places.  If we honestly want to be safe, we will push for an absolute ban on semi-automatic weapons and handguns.  These weapons have no place in a civilized society.

If you are telling yourself that the famous and oft misquoted founding fathers intended to put handguns and semi-automatic weapons into the hands of the general population, you are ignoring history and trying to rewrite the past. They wanted to insure that the people could form militia’s, complete with muskets and bayonets.  Read your history; even the grammar in the Second Amendment to the Constitution makes it clear that they were not talking about the right for individuals to shoot up their neighborhoods.

Read the text, and make up your own mind:

As ratified by the States and authenticated by Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
I would like to ask Gabby Giffords and her family what they think these words mean. I would like to ask the families of the children killed at Columbine and at Virginia Tech.  I would like to talk to the family of the boy who shot down in cold blood just because his skin was brown and his hood was up.
Enough.

Melancholy, baby


I wish I had been born in the Victorian Age.   I probably wouldn’t have loved the corsets or the lack of indoor plumbing, but I think I could get into the swooning part.  I would enjoy spending a few hours, or days, on a couch in a darkened room, with lavender water in a cloth over my eyes.

It might be nice to be seen as too fragile and nervous to face every day life. A Victorian Lady was allowed to take to her bed with the vapors every now and then, just from hearing bad news.

That sounds good to me right about now.

You see, lately I have been struggling with a real sense of melancholy.  Life is feeling like a challenge.

I am not depressed: that implies a longer, deeper and more profound feeling than what ails me.

I am not really sad; life is full and rich and all is well in my world.

I’m just……melancholy.  I miss my babies, as anyone who has ever stumbled by this blog surely knows. I miss the days of active motherhood far more than I ever thought I would, and with far more sorrow that I anticipated.   But its more than that.   I miss my father, especially around my birthday. I miss his voice.  I miss his brown eyes. I miss the fact of his existence.

I am melancholy for my past.  I want a chance to play with my brothers and sisters again. I want to run through the sprinkler and get in the station wagon and go on vacation.

I am wistful for friends who have retired, moved away, grown distant.  I am missing my school as it used to be in all its creative glory.  In the old days before all the tests and standards and rubrics.  I miss those days.

And I have been on the edge of such sad stories, too.  Unexpected death in the very young, loss and illness and sadness.  I am watching friends as they try to cope with the unthinkable.  It drags on my soul, after a while.

So I am finding it harder and harder to just keep going , to just keep pushing through the demands of every day. But what’s my choice?  I would feel weak if I had to miss work or skip the grocery shopping or fail to walk the dogs.  In 2012, a woman needs to just chin up and keep on plugging.  A modern, progressive, professional woman can’t just pull the curtains, place her limp wrist across her eyes and fall onto the couch.

So I wish that I could live back in Victorian Days, just for a while.  I really want to swoon for a few days. Just till I feel better. I’d even be willing to wear a corset…..

No words


 

There are no words tonight to express the grief that is felt in my small town.

A life, a very young life, was lost last night.  It was one of those unforeseen, inexplicable accidents. The road was snowy, the night was dark, the kids were in the car, coming home from work at the grocery store.  A skid, a crash, and a life full of promise was simply gone. Eighteen years of life, and the journey was ended.

How can we hope to make sense of this tragedy? How can we comfort each other? How can we simply move on?

Tonight I am safe and warm in my bright and cozy home.  I have eaten a healthy and filling dinner, shared with the man I love.  I sit now on my couch, a devoted dog resting its head on each knee.  For me, tonight, life is good and I am whole.

But the terrible loss that another family is trying to survive tonight reminds me so sharply that my children are not here beside me.  They are beyond my reach, beyond my care, beyond the safety of this comfy couch.  I am reminded, yet again, that I don’t have the safety of the magical thinking that helped me through their childhood years.  Each night, when they were small, I said the same magical incantation over them. “Good night, sleep tight. I love you!”

Now they are beyond my whispered prayers and gentle kisses. They are beyond my power to tuck them safely in to sleep, beyond my ability to keep vigil over their dreaming forms.

Tonight, as I go to bed, I will picture each of them, and I will hold them in my heart.  I will see the merging of their beautiful baby faces and the young adults they have become. I will whisper into the darkness, “Good night, sleep tight. I love you!”  And I will pray, with every molecule of my being, that they are safe for one more night.

Because tonight I know that there are no guarantees, and I cannot be sure that I will hold them in my arms again.

Thanksgiving, way back when


I have many memories of Thanksgiving, spreading out over my 55 years of life.  All of them include too much food, so many intoxicating smells, lots of relatives, and an enduring sense of family love.

Some memories are annual; the smell of the turkey with its crisp golden skin, the taste of dates and figs after dinner, the special pleasure of a bowl of my Mom’s hamburg stuffing with a big dollop of cranberry sauce on top, hours after the guests have gone home.

Some memories are tied to specific periods of my life.  The high school football games of my adolescence, filled with red and black pompoms, victory dances (even when we lost) and the school spirit song.   High school football games of my middle age, when my sons were either in the band or on the field, complete with local color, anxious moments and the sweet sound of the National Anthem in gorgeous four part harmony.

I remember Thanksgivings as a child, with ravioli on the table, chestnuts roasting, and conversations veering from English to Italian and back again. I remember the Thanksgivings of my teen years, with the pancake breakfast in the morning, helping in the kitchen at noon, and a dance at the High School to end the evening.

I can clearly remember the early Thanksgivings when my children were babies. I recall sitting in fear at the dinner table with my toddler in front of an expensive china plate. Rushing through dinner to nurse a cranky baby and defending my desire to hold him as he slept, rather than leaving him in his portacrib in another room.  I recall the years when I spent the day before the holiday at the pediatrician’s office, filling prescriptions to deal with the ear infections and bronchitis.

I remember the years with little children; dressing up in our best, and heading off to Grandma’s. I remember packing up my squash and my pies, and getting on the road with my children in the back of the car.

I remember Grampa cracking walnuts in his strong hands.  And Nana telling stories at the table, before a game of Ganju.  I remember little turkey’s made by my own hands, my siblings hands, my children’s loving hands.  I remember the feeling of peace and contentment that came from my very full belly, my over filled dessert plate, my packed dining room table.

And I remember, so well, the years when I became the hostess.  The kids and I would clean the house, brine the bird, make some pies. They’d help their Dad to clean up the yard, straighten the deck, bring up the serving dishes.  We would have our special time together before the house filled up with friends and relatives.  We would have each other to look at and laugh with throughout the holiday.

I remember the inexplicable joy of having my oldest child home from college that first year.  She seemed so exotic, so grown up, so familiar, so dear to me.  I can bring myself to tears just remembering how she stood in the doorway with her hair swept over her shoulder, her smile as wide and as bright at the sea.

I remember it all.  I remember too much.

This year is a new year.  No children live here. No one is asking for that special pie.  I will not go to a football game or take a child to the doctor. The china is safe from tiny, active hands.

So many people from my past are gone.

My Grampa is gone, and his walnut cracking magic has gone with him.

My Nana is gone, so the card game after dinner has gone, too.

My Dad is gone, so the political debates over brandy are finished, too.

My babies are gone, so the games and the laughs and the special mincemeat pies are gone now too.

I have so many memories of Thanksgivings past.