It would be easy to say I’ve been numb since the news hit Friday morning. The truth is I wish I had been numb. Numb would be preferable to the sheer horror, the shock, the abject fear and devastation that I’ve cycled through all weekend. The only thing that stopped me from driving to the twins’ school and bringing them home is that I knew it would only frighten them unnecessarily. And since I had no intention of telling them what happened, I felt like it was more appropriate to allow them to finish their day as if it were any other day rather than assuage my fears by confusing them.
Friday was supposed to be “date night.” We were supposed to get a rare night out while the kids hung out with their auntie and went to the movies. I couldn’t stomach the thought of them being away from us any longer than the school day, so I texted H and asked her if she was ok with a family dinner out. She agreed. She, too, had spent the day off and on in tears, turning off the news only to have to turn it back on again. I had a work event to attend in the afternoon, and begged her to tell me once she had the kids with her. She texted that there were many more parents at pickup than normal – my guess is the after-school programs were markedly sparse Friday afternoon. Blissfully unaware of why their teachers were squeezing them extra tightly as they sent them off for the weekend, the twins were eager to tell stories of cupcakes and projects and tales of playground antics.
When I finally walked through the door after a tearful drive home, I could barely contain my emotions. J asked me why I was crying, and H told her I had missed her all day. That seemed to satisfy her. And when J and N took to the couch to play with the iPads so I could get ready to go to dinner, I took a step into the hall and sobbed for about 5 minutes. We spent a nice evening at dinner and Christmas shopping, and when it came time to put them to bed, I sat with each of them just a little longer, hugged them both a little tighter.
I’ve spent most of the weekend staying away from the news. It’s too much. And facebook is worse. The yelling and screaming at each other about the politics of tragedy, as if somehow anything anyone says about the “musts” and the “shoulds” will change anything at all. No matter what we do from here, it won’t change the fact that 20 innocent babies died. It won’t change the fact that teachers sacrificed themselves to save their students. It won’t change the fact that dropping all of our children off at school tomorrow will be petrifying in a way we never wanted to imagine.
Today was a run day. I’m a week off in my half-marathon training because of a fender bender two weeks ago. So instead of 8 miles today, my scheduled run was 3. It wasn’t raining, so I opted for an afternoon run outside. As soon as I stepped outside in the cold I could feel the tears well up. I knew where I had to go.
The twins’ school is just over a mile and a half from our house. I’ve used our route to school as a running route many times before and used the school as my turnaround point – a halfway point of sorts. Today it was my destination. As I rounded the second to last corner before the school I struggled not to cry. I crossed the street in front of the school and could see a pink jacket on the playground, discarded, no doubt, by a student playing at recess who got too warm and then neglected to pick it up on the way back into class. But when I saw that jacket, laying there on the playground, I lost it. I walked the short distance between the “big kid” playground and the kindergarten playground and sobbed.
I needed to be there. I needed to see that it was the same place. I needed to see that it’s the same place I’ve dropped the twins off at and picked them up from over a hundred times. I needed to cry there today so I don’t cry there tomorrow.
I caught my breath and started back towards home.
Tomorrow, I have to load the kids in the car, drive them to school, and leave them there. I will never look upon the simple task of dropping them off at school the same way again. Our mornings have been frustrating the past few weeks, and I always make sure before I leave school that each of them has had a hug and a kiss and an “I love you.” Nothing will change for them. For me, though, it will become as Mel calls it, an act of faith.
I don’t know where we go from here. As a society. As parents. As guardians of all the children, regardless of whether we are parents or not. I just know that even as an adult, it’s possible to still have innocence left to be stolen.