On the day of his Third Birthday, I took the day off work. That morning, I got the girls on the school on the bus. The day was in front of us and I couldn't wait to be with my boy the whole day, just the two of us. It was the first day we'd ever done something fun, just the two of us. I felt a little guilty about that, but we were going to change that today.
The day was December 14.
I got a text message from my friend Carrie while at the new Portland Aquarium. Bryson and I were trying on shark costumes. She told me of a shooting in Connecticut at an elementary school. My heart skipped a beat and after a little back and forth, I learned K-4, 26 dead, I quickly put my phone back in my back pocket. I took it out twice to take a picture, but I didn't want to know more. I wanted to enjoy this time with my baby. Each time he came in for a hug, I held him a little closer. And each time he ran away, I felt my heart panic, I needed to be near him. Part of me wanted to race to school to pick up the girls, but I was an hour away, and I knew Addie was already home with our nanny, and Lily only had 2 hrs left of school.
Bryson and I went to Red Robin, played with play doh and ate lunch. He picked out balloons, and made a big mess of his noodles, and I let him. I didn't tell him one time to eat more, or cleaner, like I wanted to, I just drank him up. Focusing on him, as I fought the urge to find out more. They sang to Bryson and he loved every minute of this alone time.
After lunch was over, I needed to get home and be with the girls. I needed to be physically in our house with my kids. I saw a message from our Kindergarten teacher that said some of the kids were Kindergarteners. I didn't want to imagine and I didn't want to think about how or what to say to my kids about this, I hoped I wouldn't say anything. I got home to excited girls who were ready, happy, waiting for the birthday boy. They had no idea. Of course they didn't. Thank God they didn't. They were absolutely full of joy and innocence that it hurt to look at them, but I was thankful.
It was Friday. TGIF. A long awaited day for me. For all the moms of the world. Pizza / movie night, the easiest night of the week in the Herman house. We get into PJs before 5pm and we eat pizza in front of a movie until bedtime. We cuddle on the couch and everyone likes pizza so much, we never have to coax a few more bites. At bedtime, everyone is tired, relaxed, and ready to sleep. Bedtime is easy. All weekday long, we long for Friday night when we can collapse in the easy and comfortable and loving.
My brother and Heather came over for cupcakes before their movie, and our nanny stayed a little late so we ate cake before dinner, and opened presents before getting into PJs. It was lovely.
Lily uncharacteristically complained a lot at Bryson's choice of movie, and as I explained to her that it was his birthday, his choice, and she didn't have to watch with us, but I hoped she would because it was her brother's special day. I was annoyed with her and also filled with love and gratitude at the same time. Thankful that this was my problem. What if this wasn't the explanation I had to deliver on this night? What if this wasn't the thing she felt the saddest about? Having to watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse instead of Annie. What if I had to explain that her sister was gone, or that her friends were gone, or to try to make sense of a violation that could never be restored in all of her years. What if?
My heart aches when I think about the rawness that I felt that day, the day my little boy turned three. The day I had so, so much to celebrate. The day a community lost everything, if not their children, their innocence, their support network, their school. I have never been so full of fear lurking in the world. Waiting for me to send my children off to them.
That weekend I had more patience than maybe I ever had in eight years of parenting. I drank them up, I memorized their movements, their laughs, their tears. I knew that whatever emotion I was feeling toward them as they pestered one another, or woke me up at night, I was lucky to be experiencing it. I felt blessed and guilty. Guilty for being blessed. Guilting for it taking another's tragedy to wake me into perspective. But that's what it takes sometimes.
I was forever changed by the horror that happened to an elementary school 3,000 miles away. I knew I would never forget the pain that I felt in my heart. I hoped that was the worst thing I would ever experience in my lifetime, and I was sad because I knew it almost certainly would not be.
And here we are. Two months later. Most of us have all but forgotten. We think about it, we shutter, and we go on. We make sure that we look at our kids in the eyes and tell them we love them before they get on the bus. Say we are sorry before they run off for a day out of our control. But we aren't gripped by the urgency anymore. Maybe that's because emotionally it is too exhausting to live in that kind of fear. We can't protect them from everything. My friend, Melanie, touched me on that first painful Monday, when I had to send them back to school and I didn't want to. She reminded me that my teachers love those kids as much as I do, and they will do anything and everything I would do to keep them safe. I thought of my teachers, my friends, and...oh, that is so true. It gave me comfort and courage to walk through that week.
And in the weeks since I've prayed and I've thought endlessly about those families, those mamas. I've read so many good blogs, like - I know what 6 looks like & I am Adam Lanza's mother. I've read articles that have helped me to understand why this tragedy touched me so deeply, and how we are all victims here. But I'm scared. Scared of how easily my heart goes from broken to numb. I hope I can find a way to let this break my heart again and again, not because I want to feel the pain, but because with the pain came such clarity about what matters and what it really means to live in the moment and celebrate my present. I want it to allow me to feel the compassion and gratitude in that big messy lump in my throat in those weeks after Bryson's 3rd birthday. And if I'm totally honest, I want to love my kids as much as I did that weekend. I want to love them so much that I never look away when they are talking. I want to love them so much that I never grumble at giving another good night hug. I want to love them so much that the mere sound of their voice gives me delight, every time. And I will and I can. As long as I can remember. I can remember. I want to remember.
I'm posting below the things I wrote on Facebook last December. I remember choosing each word carefully and from my heart. Reading them again as I prepared to write this blog reminded me that they are important because they are mine.
Every year, I will celebrate even harder that I have another year with my baby boy, and I will ache for the families out there who are hurting as they think about what should have been.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4
Dec 15 - My rockstar kindergartener on the last night of Hanukkah. I delighted in her every move today, every smile, and even in the mean stuff she did to her brother. I gladly gave in to "one more hug" three times during bedtime stalling. I simply can't imagine a world without her infectious laugh in it. I feel a little guilty but mostly so grateful for every single thing that could have gone unnoticed today but was not.
Dec 17 - Hurting like it's the first time I've ever left them. :(
Dec 18 - Jeanine and Carrie, I'm so, so thankful for you both. Laugh with me, cry with me, get angry with me, and love with me. I so needed what you two amazing ladies gave me today. Then I got in the car with Mr. Herman and the rest of my family in our pajamas with blankets on our laps and we looked at Christmas lights and ate junk and drank/spilled hot chocolate and sang songs and laughed, windows down, heater up. That was the other thing I really needed today. Still hearthurting and still grateful.
Jan 7 - Back to work. Back to school. It was still dark out at 8:30am. I miss my babies. I feel uneasy again. Dreary day in the PNW. Whoa. Is. Me.
Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones. When you have finished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake. ~Victor Hugo~