Last week I had planned on writing about preparations for Christmas. However, my focus abruptly changed as I listened to NPR about the savage killings in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday, December 14. It seemed surreal: How could a sick twisted individual gun down six and seven-year old first grade students, teachers, and administrators? Why in the name of all that is good and holy would the mother of her deranged son hand him firepower, and take him to a shooting range for target practice. To kill even one child is to extinguish one of the lights of our future, one of our hopes for our world.
As a parent, my first instinct was to embrace my daughter and not let her go when she arrived home from college late in the afternoon of December 14. The anguish of the Sandy Hook Elementary School parents, the grieving families of the teachers and staff has resonated throughout our nation ever since the harrowing news was transmitted. We are appalled. We are heartbroken. Twenty children brimming with wide-eyed wonder at the fascinating world around them, drinking it in with boundless enthusiasm were savagely taken for no apparent reason other than the fury of a lunatic. We grope for answers; we attempt to find reason in the unfathomable.
Yet we take heart in knowing these children will be remembered as always loving, perennially smiling, sweetly affectionate, and robust in the happiness they shared with their family, friends, and community. Somehow since last Friday, I cannot spontaneously hug my child enough, cannot tell her often enough how much I love her, cannot bear the thought that harm could come to her. Every time I have seen a child since last Friday, I smile more broadly than usual [and I am a pretty smiley individual] at both the child and the parent.
I read that a woman traveled from Iowa to Newtown with little idea other than to help. She somehow connected with others who had decided to bake pies for the good people of Newtown. This story resonated with me because I always make baked rigatoni or soup for those who are coping with a sick family member or with a death in the family. One thing we Italians know how to do well is to provide nourishment.
It is the small moments, I intone to myself; it is the rituals of family and tradition that we share that add up to life, as my family knows it.
I read that some folks in Newtown are conflicted about putting up a Christmas tree. Maybe other families felt the menorah candles had lost their meaning. As I gaze at our Christmas tree on these overcast days, I take heart in white lights, the Italian angel atop the tree, the crèche and Advent wreath radiate hope. The Holy Family fled King Herod’s murderous soldiers, as Mary was about to give birth. Mary and Joseph found the strength to protect their child. We too will find the courage to keep Christmas in our hearts. While innocence seems lost for now, hope is not.
Merry Christmas, Blessed Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, and all in-between to all.