Saturday, December 15, 2012


December 14, 2012 started out badly for me. I woke to take my younger kids to their respective schools and came home to clean the ever present pile of cat poop from the front hall. Then I proceeded to unload the dishwasher, wipe down counters, straighten throws and pillows, pick up isolated socks and hoodies, organize the pile of discarded shoes inside the front door and brush crumbs from the sofa while debating the whole vacuuming thing. While I did all of this, I was crying quietly yet uncontrollably. I knew why.

Christmas does not exist for us this year. Financially I can’t make it happen. I don’t know how to explain it to my kids and make it okay. Explaining that their dad is nearly $70k behind in child support won’t help them understand. He has been behind for years but I always managed to make Christmas happen. This year I have hit a wall. We have no tree and I have not had the heart to break out the rest of the decorations though I will eventually. Watching the endless stream of holiday movies depresses me this year. Their quandaries seem simplistic. Barring illness, if they can afford to meet a friend for lunch or Christmas shop for gifts – they have no real insurmountable problems. 

Walt Jedziniak Photography
I really have tried to focus on the what-we-haves versus what-we-don’ts. My 14 year old portrayed the Ghost of Christmas past in recent production of her high school drama club’s A Christmas Carol. They are trying to rejuvenate the program so I was happy to paint sets and my 12 year old and I finally worked on a stage crew together. It was a feel good time but then the kids ask to be driven to various activities then quickly realize that it would cost gas and whatever funds might be required and they quickly retract the request. Add to this the failing transmission in my eleven year old car that is going to require a multi-thousand dollar repair once it does go…ho, ho, ho… Planning the annual family party and gift exchange at my sister’s house forty five miles away, two days before Christmas, is an exercise in pure fiction on my part. Yes, I know I am pulling a total Scarlet O’Hara but really – I will think about it tomorrow.

Yet each morning, once I go through my morning routine, I sit down and hit the job boards. I apply for any position that I could possibly be considered for. I do this knowing that even if I were to find something, it wouldn't be in enough time to fix Christmas this year and if it is more than a few miles from where we live, my car might not get me there. But I do it anyway on this December morning. I remind myself that Christmas is only one day and I need to continue on and think about our post-Christmas existence so I turn on the Today Show and boot up my laptop. 

Breaking news alerts interrupt the regular Today Show. A possible school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut but information is limited. I am familiar with Sandy Hook and have a good friend in Newtown. It’s about 40 miles from where we live now. The scenes on the screen are bustling but not frantic. I cautiously hope that the reported shots were a high school prank. 

It becomes apparent that the report is not a prank. As I watch the local anchors admirably struggle contain their own emotions, the reality of what has happened within the elementary school is confirmed. At least twenty four are dead – mostly children. I am cold.

Part of me wants to drive to my kids schools and bring them home but the other part wants them to never have to know about this. My daily plans and worries stop. I watch previously filmed footage of parents speed walking to the scene and know that at some of them were not reunited with their children at the local firehouse.

It doesn't feel real. I dig for digital photos of my kids at that age to make it hurt just a fraction of the way it must be hurting those parents. I see a picture of my oldest son. He most probably has Asperger’s , a version of Autism that was not named until 1992 when he was four. I think about the shooter, mistakenly identified as a twenty four year old male. The age, the lack of empathy, the similarity to other, recent spree shootings and my unwished for knowledge of thought disorders make me feel colder. I know what may be revealed in the following days.

I think about my sister, a kindergarden teacher in nearby Waterbury. I don’t expect to hear from her as she is at her school. I wonder if she knows about what has happened and if she knew any of the adults. As the day moves on I answer Facebook posts and messages from mutual friends and relatives who are worried about her. I know instinctively that she is not hurt physically but when night falls and I haven’t yet heard from her, I know that her hurt is emotional. She was friends with the school’s slain principal. Her late night text confirms that it was a “rough” day.

Our Christmas still doesn't exist. That didn't change. What did change was my anguish over it. Nothing can compare to what these families will face over the remainder of this holiday season or what they will feel each time they look at photos of their lost ones … at any age. 

Tonight my kids and I will decorate the outside of the house.

1 comment:

  1. Oh Barbli, I'm so sorry and so glad all at the same time. At least you feel like decorating...