Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Magic cookies

I've been letting the words gel and form and slide down into my belly, churn, come back, sort of like a mother wolf feeds her young. It has to be digestable, otherwise there is no nourishment, and that is exactly how I feel about the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. Oh, goddamnit, Nichole, why'd you have to bring that up...? Perhaps, that's what you're thinking. I mean, it did happen before the holidays, so it's old news, the world has moved on to the fiscal cliff and more Syria. Right?

Nope, not this mama. I felt the same anxiety when I dropped my clever, beautiful, completely innocent children off at school this morning. I felt like an unwilling farmer, taking my lambs to the slaughterhouse. The panic lingers after they disappear into the building, and only subsides when the afternoon finally comes, and the bus will soon arrive, and they will emerge smiling, scuffing their shoes, and complaining about how much homework they have. I play it cool, give them a quick hug and tell them to hop in the truck. My arms have been empty all day, and sometimes, I think of how those mothers and fathers must feel, how the ache of that emptiness doesn't leave them, even when they are sleeping. Surely, somewhere, they have turned to stone, their arms locked in a permament cold embrace around a child that is no longer there.

I don't know how they stand it. Most of us don't know how they stand it.

I told my daughter about the tragedy, and her face revealed an expression that was better suited to a 40-year-old woman than to an 11-year-old sixth grader.

"He shot them?" she asked, pulling milk from the fridge for her tea. "How old were they? It must've been in a high school..."

"They were in first grade, babe. Younger than Lucian."

She set the milk on the counter and crinkled her eyes at a picture stuck to the fridge door, one taken years ago when she still had a roundness to her face that belied childhood abandon. She is with her little brother, whose eyes engulf a good portion of his head and whose teeth are on the verge of spontaneous extraction. He is wearing Spiderman pajamas and they are both giddy with the excitement of Christmas.

Her gaze is broken then by tears. Silent tears and a cracked expression. I tell her it's OK and hold her until her fearful sobs die down. We are both crying, and, I think, for the same reason. She knows, she sees the innocence in that picture. She sees the trust, and then, like me, she imagines the fear that such a face must have exhibited. The very last expression, not a smile, not even a pout, just fear.

She has stopped asking every morning if I think she and her brother will be safe at school that day. Perhaps she has forgotten, or, perhaps she knows me too well, and knows that I won't be able to lie to her, not even this time. It's too awful some days. On those days, I wake up early and pack their lunches -- their favorite things; granola bars, apples and peanut butter, a banana with "I LUV U" carved into the peel, and even a treat, which I emplore them to hide from the lunch authorities. Once I put three little cookies in a bag. When my son saw me packing this contraband he thought, truly, that I had gone off the deep end.

"Did you just put a cookie in my lunchbox?! I mean, a couple of cookies?!"

"Yes. Do you not like cookies? Would you like me to take them out?"

"No way! It's just that, you have NEVER packed cookies. Never ever, ever, ever..."

"I get it. Well, a little treat now and then never hurt anyone. It helps get through a long day, if you have something to look forward to."

"Even if it's a cookie."

"Yup. Even if it's just a cookie."

I think about them opening up their lunchboxes and finding the cookies and it warms me just a little. I think about how they will get on the bus, loaded down with their backpacks and the burden of the day, with cookies in their belly. From me, with love. Maybe they will never know the extent, or rather, the extreme, to which I love them. It might be too scary, maybe they are too young to know. Maybe all children are too young to know that their mothers love them like wild animals. And that grief and happiness grow from the same tree, and that we sometime cannot sleep for worry over them. We cannot eat, we cannot get warm because we still think that by some magic they are here, and we are only human, and therefore, our magic won't keep them here, not long enough.

And so, we have cookies.

No comments:

Post a Comment