Yesterday morning I was fixating. The first thing I was fixating on was the fact that the weather, after several days of heavy snowfall, had broken, and I needed to get to town to get groceries and some other essentials. In order to get to town and back before dark I needed to do much shoveling, dressing of kids, warming of car, etc. etc. The second thing I was fixating on was a conversation my children and I had been exposed to the day before, about how boys fight and get over it, but girls are devious and manipulative and mean and learn it from their mothers. I was thinking about how much I had wanted to protect my daughters from these most unfortunate words.*
And in the midst of my fixating I heard the news about the school shootings in Connecticut. And then I didn't care that much about the other two things. Because who cares anymore? 20 little kids, ages 6 and 7, are dead. And yes, I know, I know - children are dying everyday, all over the world and we go on as if it is nothing. I know we, as a society, demonstrate gross indifference to child labour, poverty, abuse, murder, when it is in the context of "far away" and "not affecting my daily life." I know all that, and yes, I understand the reason I (and many like me) are so destroyed by the thought of this shooting and not about the other stuff that happens everyday all over the world is because this is something to which we can directly relate. These parents sent their babies to school, and a bad guy came to the school and shot them dead. This could be us, this could be me. I am right there.
I started the drive to town yesterday morning listening to CBC radio, as usual, but the girls said something they have never said before. They said: "No, mommy, turn it off." So I turned it off and didn't listen to the half-hourly news reports that would have informed me of "what we know so far." Instead, the girls and I pointed to the trees, and the horses we passed, and we talked about what we saw, and we sang about monkeys falling off beds and reindeer, and Santa.
We had a nice day in town, and when I came home I read all the comments on Facebook about what had happened. I put away groceries. I cooked dinner. We ate dinner. We watched a show about a kid with a purple crayon. We had a bath. And then the girls went to play by themselves in the bedroom and I opened my laptop and let myself read the news and sob.
I didn't say "How does something like this happen?" because it is a meaningless question. Crazy people go get guns and use them to shoot people. It happens. We've seen it happen again and again. And after it happens we analyze the shit out of the how and whys and who is to blames. (When I was in my early 20s the Montreal Massacre happened and for months afterward the debate raged on and on about whether it was a violence against women issue or a random act of violence issue. Are you kidding me? A guy armed to the teeth walked into a classroom, released the men, shot the women, and left a manifesto about hating women. I think we can close the case on that debate.)
I didn't obsess about crazy US gun control policy, or how mentally ill people are left to navigate the world with little support, or how we exist in a culture that glamourizes violence to the point that we hardly even notice it anymore. I was too busy thinking about the parents, and how they will ever be able to get through this.
I did have a Facebook chat with my friend who has two small children as well, and we discussed how hard it is, in the face of something like this, to NOT just start thinking about raising your children in a fortress surrounded by a moat full of sharks. But we can't. We have to let our kids have lives, even if it means sending them off to school when, every so often, horrid things happen at schools.
And I did let myself focus on the love that everyone was expressing for a community of people we have never met in a place we have never been. Because, as awful as these things are, they make us stop and put away the little, daily fixations, and look to one another and say: "I don't know you, but I know you. And I can't love you, because I don't even know you, but I love you. And I can't possibly know what you are going through, but I know that you are going through it, and it means something that your unimaginable loss is causing a mom far, far away to think of nothing but you."
* One day I will write a post about Tina Fey (who is the undisputed goddess of all things), and how important I think "Mean Girls" is, and how important the message is and was, but how the importance of Ms. Fey's important message has been (like PMS) twisted into a blanket stereotype that does so much more harm than good. But that's a story for another day.