Friday, December 14, 2012

Emotional Roller Coaster

It’s been an emotional whirlwind of a day.  I woke up this morning with a spring in my step and a smile on my face.  I was really taken with the beauty of our children.  Not just mine, our collective children.  Their exuberance was palpable.  Today was the last day of school before the holiday break and those kids were ready to be done with school and onto bigger and better things. 

After I dropped off Kees I took the big kids to the Fernwood Campus and then went to get coffee for Kees’ teacher and myself.  I was going back to the school to walk Kees’ class over to Fernwood for a holiday celebration concert.  Coulter’s choir was going to sing.  It was his first concert and Kees and I were going to see it together. 

Watching the kids from Hollyrood all file over to Fernwood is quite an event.  Imagine almost 200 kids walking through the park.  It’s a beautiful thing.  They all arrived in the Cafetorium and in a very orderly fashion they found their designated spots.  Within 10 minutes the Cafetorium was packed with all the kids from kindergarten up to the 5th grade.  On the stage was the BCS 3rd-5th grade choir in all their cuteness.  And on the floor were the other 450 kids waiting patiently.  The choir sang about 10 songs and in between each song one of the big kids in 8th grade would read a summery about a holiday from somewhere across our planet.  The audience sang along with some songs and just watched for others.  It was bliss.  I find it hard to believe what joy I get watching my kids thrive in their school.  It is a slice of perfection.  I welled up with tears of joy.

While watching this perfect vignette a message comes across the screen of my phone, “26 dead, 18 of them children, in Conn. school shooting.”   I gasped.  What is happening?  I pulled up the story and sat there, mouth agape.  I passed my phone and watched other shocked parents have the same visceral reaction that I had. 

The “show” concluded and I walked Kees’ class back to the school.  This experience was not nearly as carefree.  I watched our kids, our precious kids go back to their little Norman Rockwell school.  I know that the school in Connecticut was the same, that their parents felt the same way about their school that I do about ours. How could this happen?  What was he thinking?  What could make a person do such a thing?  Were there warning signs?  Why is there so much violence?  Is there nowhere where our children are safe?

I kissed Kees good-bye and walked home in a numb haze.  When I got home I turned on the TV and sat there dumb founded.  I saw the grief on parents’ faces.  I saw pictures of terrified kids.   I saw hundreds of armed men running around an elementary school.  Good God!  I cried… 

I had to turn off the TV.  It was too painful.

I tried to go about my day, I had a lot to do, but it was exceedingly difficult.  I had gifts to put together for our administrators.  I thank God for those women at our school.  They are amazing.  And then the face of the principal of Sandy Hook Elementary came to mind and the tears started again.   I placed some sweets in the bag of goodies….more tears.  We are so blessed with the dedication of our teachers and administrators.  Tears.  Deep breaths.  I wrote a note to the principal and vice principal at BCS.  There is no way to convey to them how much I appreciate what they do but I try.  It is extraordinarily hard to write because my hand is shaking.  More tears….

I go to the “big” school and deliver my packages.  I see our principal and I want to hug her but that would be weird.  I know she is shaken.  I try to speak and it takes everything in my power not to burst into tears.  We look at each other and don’t say anything, we just shake our heads.  I finally hand her the gift and just say, “Man, what a day.  Here’s a little something for you to say thank you.”  She is grateful. 

I stay at the school because at 1:30 there is a middle school dance, Sophia’s first dance.  I will be a chaperone.  She will be mortified.  She has asked me many times, “Why?  WHY?”  I stick with my standard answer, “Because I promised you from the day you were born that I would be at your dances and I do not break my promises.”  Each time she smiles and looks worried. 

The problem is it’s only 1:00.  I wander the halls looking lost.  I finally leave to get a bite to eat.  In the chaos of the day I forgot to eat.  I get in the car and there is more information on the radio.  Again, I cry.  I waste a half hour and then return to the school.

When I get into the Cafetorium it is transformed from the fine arts theater it had been in the morning to Studio 54.  There were lights, loud music, blinking colored lights, boisterous kids and a concession stand.  I got to assist with the concessions.  There was candy, soda, hats, boas….all sorts of silly things and the kids “needed” it all.  When Sophia saw me she didn’t run.  As a matter of fact she even let me take pictures.  Again, I welled up with tears.  This time it was tears of joy.  I see our principal and she too is full of joy to see our kids having so much fun.  She says, “They are such good kids.”  And they are. 

The kids jump, scream lyrics, dance in groups, laugh and buy junk from the concession stand.  Again our perfect little school and our beautiful kids make me cry.  We are so blessed. 

I have to leave the dance a few minutes early because I have to pick up Kees at the little school.  All the parents are in a fog.  I talk to a few friends and we’re all feeling the same thing, great sadness, shock and love for our children.  When the kids come out each parent collects their little person and I see many embraces.  Embraces that are a little longer, looks that are a little more grateful.  I catch the eye of a friend who is hugging her little girl and with out saying a word we convey, “Thank God our children are safe.” In just a look.  She knows, I know.  I get Kees and can’t get enough of him. We walk home hand in hand.  The little things mean so much. 

Sophia and Coulter walk home.  When they’re all home I sit them down right in front of me and I tell them the kid version of what happened.  I explain that they can ask me questions or just talk to daddy or me about it.  They understand. 

Tonight I have my family around me and I am grateful.  My children are safe and happy.  They’re excited for Christmas.  aI am happy but also mourning for the families in Connecticut.  I cannot imagine their pain.  I don’t want to.  It is too hard even this far removed. 

I am exhausted from the highs and lows of today.  I will never be the same.  I will pray.  I am glad that I have this outlet.  How do we move forward?  How do we stop these things from happening?  I wish I knew.