Last Friday morning I almost didn’t kiss Fletcher goodbye. I was sitting in the kitchen with my coffee and a headache, and he ran happily out the door. I almost didn’t get up and go after him.
And then Friday happened. And as I sat glued to the tv in horror, I kept replaying that moment over and over in my head. What if I hadn’t gone after him for that kiss? What if this had happened at our school?
I met the kids at school that day instead of letting them walk home on their own. I just couldn’t get my arms around them fast enough. And in the days since, that hasn’t changed. I physically ache for them when they aren’t with me. It’s crazy. I know it is crazy. And yet I can’t let go of the thought that those children who didn’t come home Friday, they were my kids. They were just like my kids. And it is simply too much to bear.
It has been a week now, but these overwhelming feelings of grief have not subsided. I’m feeling particularly protective of my sweet first grader, Lola. Silly little things bring me to tears . . . watching her dance in the Nutcracker Saturday night, the gifts made of paper and tape and sea shells she carefully places under our Christmas tree, the love note she brought home from a sweet boy in her class, the curve of her cheek still holding onto it’s baby fat, the way she sucks her thumb in her sleep . . . I can not imagine my world without her. I can not comprehend the kind of evil that would direct itself towards a class full of sweet children just like her.
Every morning when they climb into bed with me, I am so, incredibly grateful for another day with my babies. And so painfully heartbroken for the family who will never again have the chance for sleepy morning snuggles. I think about those families all the time.
Earlier in the week I saw a blog post entitled “I Know What Six Looks Like” and it summed these feelings up perfectly. Beautifully. You can find the original post, written by Jennifer Walters, on her blog here or reposted on the Huffington Post. Please read it. Please remember it. Something has got to change. Because six really is the whole world.
. . . since I first started to understand the magnitude of what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday morning, I have cried a lot. I cried when I heard the terrible news. I cried when I went to pick my son up early from school. I cried when I told my husband what had happened. I cried when I talked to my girlfriends about it. I cried at church when we prayed for each victim by name. Off and on for going on three days now, I have cried. And this is despite going out of my way to not watch anything about it on TV or read too much about it online. I’m actively trying to avoid it, but I still find myself crying more than usual.
I mentioned this to a friend last night and she said that she couldn’t seem to stop crying either. When I asked her why she thought that was, her answer was, for me, a revelation. She said, “I think it’s because we know what six looks like. We see it every day . . . in all its glory.” And she was right. Because, you see, this friend and I both have a six year old child. I, a six year old son. She, a six year old daughter. Both are in first grade. Both, I imagine, so heart-breakingly similar to those twenty kids who were so brutally and senselessly killed on Friday morning. And we do, indeed, know what six looks like. We do see it every day. In all its glory. We see the good, the bad, and the ugly. The beautiful and the infuriating. It’s in our face. We live it and breathe it.
We know what six looks like. We know what it smells like. How it can go from the fresh scent of shampoo and soap to the musky aroma of “dirty child” in what seems like minutes. How it resists getting in the bathtub . . . and then resists getting out half an hour later. How sweet its hair and skin and clean jammies smell when it sits on your lap and asks you to read it a bedtime story. We know the unmistakeable fragrance of the occasional accident in the middle of the night caused by too much milk and no last-thing-before-bed visit to the toilet.
We know what six looks like. We know what it sounds like. How it cries and whines. How it sings and laughs. How clever it is and how much more clever it grows every day. How it sounds out words on signs as we drive past in the car and how happy it is when it gets them right. How annoying it sounds when it teases its little sister and how kind it sounds when it soothes her when she falls down and hurts herself. We know how lovely the words “Mommy” and “Daddy” and “I Love You” sound in its six-year-old voice.
We know what six looks like. We know how it feels. How big it’s getting. How fast it outgrows its clothes and how it’s no longer a baby, but not quite yet a big kid. We know the weight of six in our arms. How we can barely carry it anymore, but try anyway because we can’t quite bring ourselves to accept the truth. We know how easily six gets its feelings hurt if someone says just the wrong thing or if this friend or that one doesn’t want to play with it or it gets in trouble at school. We know the velvety softness of six’s skin. We know the still-silkiness of its hair.
Yes, we know what six looks like. We know six’s gap-toothed smile and its gangly arms and legs. We see how it jumps and dances. How it twirls and runs. We know how funny six is. How absolutely charming it can be. We know six’s terrible jokes. We know how obsessed it is with “Minecraft.” We know its crooked “S” and its backwards “3.” We see how it teeters on the cusp of the world of books and all the joys of reading, but how it’s not quite ready to fall in yet. We see how six can’t decide if it wants us to stand beside it or not. We watch it take two steps towards independence and one step back towards us every day. We know how sturdy and strong six is . . . and yet how frail and fragile.
We know what six looks like. How beautiful it is. How precious. How brightly it shines with promise. How much it looks towards the future . . . toward seven, eight, nine, . . . How much it looks like forever.
We know what six looks like and can only in our worst nightmares imagine how devastating its loss in this senseless and evil way would be. We can only barely imagine the wreckage and the despair and the utter hopelessness that would be left if six were brutally and suddenly taken from us. We know we couldn’t bear life without it.
Yes, we know what six looks like. And we know that, to us–like it must be for those other mothers and fathers in Connecticut–six is the whole world.