What a tragic and long week this has been. The morning of the Connecticut shootings, I had had a sleepless night and was very out of sorts. For no reason, when I was in the shower in late morning (why is it that answers and the big questions always come in the bathroom??), suddenly the question came to me, “What if today were your last day on Earth? Any regrets?”
I was surprised by the answer I gave myself. The whole thing seemed to come out of “nowhere.” We know that questions don’t come out of nowhere though, so it made me pause and wonder just what the heck was going on.
I noticed as I walked out into the sun room (which you would assume has actual sunlight, hence the name, but my house is quite dark and gets almost no natural light) that the room was all lit up and had an unnatural sunshiny glow to it. I felt like something had shifted, it felt a bit angelic in nature, and frankly I wondered if this was some kind of a sign that my time was close to an end.
I then went to my computer and the news was all over the screen about the loss of life in Connecticut. I heard the story about the mother who was in school for a meeting about her child, and I thought of just how many times I have sat in that same seat. I thought of my child’s teachers, the principal, the lady at the front desk, the special education helpers, all of the children, and honestly I could see the scene playing out and feel the tragedy of it all rip right into my throat and heart. Really the only thought I had was “twins”, and I just hoped that no one had lost more than one child, and I wondered about all of the siblings who had survived but lost their brother or sister.
I thought about the day last spring or summer when I had a sudden and overwhelming need to go pick up my son from preschool because I had the feeling something was going to go very wrong there. I did go pick him up, and nothing happened, but the vision I had was so strong that it actually practically forced me to take action. Pretty much every day since, I say a prayer to Archangel Michael, the great Protector, and ask that my children and everyone in their schools be kept safe. I then ask for all the children in the world to be kept safe, even if just for one day, but in my heart I know that it is too big a thing to ask for. But I keep asking anyway.
I was trying to avoid talking to my 3rd grader about this and I was certain my preschooler needed to know nothing. Since by law they have to go to school and I cannot wrap them in a bubble, and since we have to live life and not fear it, I decided to talk to the older one and leave the younger one out of it. So naturally the older one heard nothing at school and the younger one came home with a tale that “a kid went crazy and started cutting people up with a knife and killed them” and that he was scared of school. To him, “a kid” means someone young like him.
Big sigh, people, big sigh.
Usually I am pretty lazy about going out into big crowds but on Saturday morning I decided that I was going to take them to two events. One was a “snow day” at an outdoor plaza (which was hilarious considering it was 80 degrees) and one was our annual holiday parade here in my neighborhood, complete with Santa, sitting on Santa’s lap, and presents. It was a good thing that I had given my kids no build up to this event, because on a day when most people were working on overdrive to make kids feel safe in the world and to be kind to them, our Santa had other plans.
This parade is put on by the community, and normally it involves horses dressed for the holidays, antique cars and golf carts gussied up and neighbors throwing candy out of the vehicles for the kids who line the streets. This year, it was just me and my kids lining the streets. Where was everyone?
There has been a theme in my life lately with the adults ruining things for the kids, because they cannot manage to get along or are hypersensitive to their own child’s needs over everyone else’s. That’s why the Cub Scouts never got off the ground this year, the first year we joined. Our realtor, who is a neighbor, organized this year’s parade because, according to him, whoever was in charge of organizing it decided they didn’t want to bother this year since their own kids were grown, or they didn’t have any kids, or some such. The realtor said he thought some of the neighbors were going to boycott the parade.
Really. Boycotting a Christmas parade. Okay then.
So my kids and I sat there for about 30 minutes waiting for the parade to start. When it finally came down the road, it took it all of one minute to go by. Instead of 100 horses there might have been eight. There was one car and I think two golf carts. One family threw candy out the window. Okay, I thought, well at least we have the snow day planned. Then I heard my preschooler calling,”Santa! Hi Santa!” That’s the scene in the photo above. This is the first year that he’s really old enough to digest what’s going on and actually be excited to see Santa.
Something was wrong. Santa was not on his sleigh. He was walking, and he was leading a horse. Behind him was his real life wife, dragging the “sleigh” behind her, taking the horse’s place.
Santa looked exactly like Santa should. He looked legitimate. Which was kind of unfortunate considering what happened next.
My kids waved and said hi to Santa. Santa looked right at them, and said nothing.
Instead of following the parade and turning left, he turned right. As he passed, he was yelling about our realtor. I didn’t catch the whole thing, but either he was mad at the realtor because he put Santa’s horse at risk of injury, or the horse had actually been injured – something about his ankle.
I looked at the horse and he seemed to be walking just fine, but what do I know about horses?
As Santa stomped off, he took off his hat and let the expletives fly. His wife followed, dragging the sleigh. She turned to me and gave me an embarrassed smile. She said,”Oh well.”
The realtor turned to me and with a calm I don’t quite understand, said,”I guess he’s mad at me, huh?”
My 3rd grader said,”Mom, I’m pretty sure Santa’s not supposed to curse.”
I said,”I don’t think that was the real Santa, do you?”
He agreed with me but the preschooler said,”It was! It WAS the real Santa!” If he heard the cursing, I don’t know what he thought. I saw him physically take a step back in confusion when Santa looked right at him and said nothing. Who knows how he will remember this. If there were other kids farther along the parade route, or kids waiting at the park for Santa’s arrival, then they were sorely disappointed.
This year has seen so many things happen that shouldn’t have happened. There has been a lot of death. My friends have lost children. I don’t care if they are 6, 26, or 56, they are still your children. Every year at Christmas Eve we think of my sister-in-law who died tragically and seemingly unnecessarily on that day. This year, her daughter is about to have a baby girl and she is overdue – and might be born on the very same day that she lost her mother when she was just a teenager.
I like to think that people go when it is their time but I won’t put forth any theory that explains why children go so young. I don’t think any of us are wise enough to have the true answer to these things. Maybe there isn’t even any reason.
I have met people who cannot quite fathom the tragedy – it just doesn’t stick or sink in. It doesn’t feel any differently to them than any other group of people who die somewhere in the world.
This is different – it is amazingly different – this escalates things to a whole other level.