I was sitting outside with coworkers, watching shooting stars after attending a memorial service for a child abuse victim.
‘I should be watching these with my kids,’ I said, getting up to leave.
As I did, it started to rain – pounding, heavy rain, monsoonlike. I needed to get to my car, parked in the same spot I parked every day for four years when I worked at a residential facility for kids and adults with disabilities. The car was submerged; floating around it were kids, some alive, some dead.
And as soon as the waters parted and I got to the safety of my car, there was the piercing shrill of an ambulance. My daughter was bleeding – I couldn’t get to her in time – the ambulance was having difficulty getting through traffic and eventually went to the wrong place. The bleeding stopped; I held her, and for a moment, all was calm.
I woke up.
I woke up this morning remembering that I’d forgotten to do Betty’s weekly school assignment – The Letter Home. Each Friday, the kids write a letter home to their parents and we are to respond over the weekend, returning the letter on Monday morning. Most parents forget; I’ve been known to do so more often than I care to admit, but more often than not, I write a missive. I’m the only parent, Betty says proudly, who routinely fills up the entire alloted space.
Sometimes its hard to know what to write. Sometimes I repeat myself and what’s happened during the week. But today at 6:35 a.m., on the heels of this weekend’s heartbreak and tragedy, I wanted to make this letter home count more than the others.
So I wrote – about how proud I was of her trying to save the orcas, doing well in school, working hard at home.
I wiped away tears, not allowing myself to go there with the what if’s … what if this is the last Letter Home, what if this is the last time I will be able to tell her these things, what if there is a crazed maniac at school today, whatifwhatifwhatif
* * *
It doesn’t take Freud or any more therapy than I’ve already had to figure out the cause of my dreams. This weekend’s attempted assassination of Gabrielle Giffords and the murder of six others, including 9 year old Christina Taylor Green, have been – obviously – very much on my mind.
Because although I didn’t know her, there is so much about Christina that is heartbreakingly familiar in looks, in age, in personality. I have an aspiring 9 year old veterinarian/orca trainer/saver of the world in my house.
I have a girl who loves to dance and sing.
I have a child who is interested in politics.
I have an image and a photograph of my child, so excited and so very proud to meet our Congressman, seared into my mind.
A Congressman who would, a few short weeks later, go on to be the target of those on the extreme right, see his reputation tarnished, his distingished decades-long career abruptly ended as he become the victim of a hatriolic, spiked-by-tea, bitter political campaign the likes of which my little state had never seen.
A Congressman who my child wanted to invite to his 9 year old birthday party, who my child still idolizes, who made an appearance this weekend in our family room as a Mii on our Wii playing bi-partisan basketball with Barack Obama, Michael Jackson, John McCain, SpongeBob, Martin Luther King Jr., Snoop Dogg, John and Bobby Kennedy, and a posse of 3rd graders.
There’s all that, and there’s the Philadelphia connection to the Arizona tragedy (for when you win us a sports championship in this city, you become family, a named beneficiary in the Will), and then at the end of all that?
Then there is the utter helplessness, the disbelief, the shock and the anger.
* * *
The screams came from upstairs this morning as I was ending the Letter Home. I have enough parenting-know-how under my belt to know what is sheer drama versus bleeding so profusely that an ambulance is needed variety. This was the former, thankfully. I signed the Letter Home Love, Mommy.
Upstairs, a big tangled knot in her long brown hair had reduced Betty to a sobbing mess. At 9, she has the sheer confidence and passion and belief that she can and will save every orca on the planet – and yet all it takes is one bad hair day to become the catalyst for self-hatred and an explosive temper reminiscent of my own tween self.
So I brushed as she cried. As strands of hair broke, she yelled and screamed some more. More yelling, more stomping, more angst, more declarations that I was making her bald, more dramatic utterances of her favorite phrase: “What is WITH parents these days?!!”
At these hair-raising moments, I always think back to my own battles with my own mother. Her putting my hair in curlers at night, her spraying No More Tangles on my long brown locks. How did she do this? I think. How did she do all of it?
There is a mom in Arizona who, because of a madman and the politically-charged climate in this country, will not get to brush her 9 year old daughter’s brown hair again.
There is a mom in Arizona – and in every other state in our nation – who, because of someone’s act of violence and the fate of being in the wrong place at the wrong time will not be able to hold her child as I did after the storms of this morning, to tell her it is only hair, that hair grows back, you’ll see. Moms know these things.
And there is a mom in Arizona who will not look at today’s magnificant pink and orange tinged sky as the sun bursts forth, holding her whimpering child tight and saying, “You see? We almost missed this. You don’t want to miss this.”
I don’t want to miss this.
And that’s what I’m holding onto this morning, in the midst of the storms and the tangled knots of our lives. Amidst the unpredictability and the uncertainty of this world, amidst the crazies and the kooks.
I’m holding onto the belief that all I can do, all any of us can do, is to try to make it better.
To say what we need to say, and do what we need to do.
To untangle the knots as best as we know how.
To make this life and those we care about matter.
To make it count.
All of it.
copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo’s Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.