It's the most wonderful time of the year. Or so the song says. Since the shootings that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary, however, I've been really struggling with the whole holly and jolly thing. Which is particularly hard since my job revolves around kids' parties, at this, the hap-happpiest season of all.
Before this tragedy unfolded, I felt overwhelmed by the amount of things on my to-do list. I fretted over what gifts to give my children's teachers, labored over which cookies to bake and painstakingly planned the creative holiday party ideas I'd share with my readers. Then the words "elementary school shooting" and "multiple fatalities" collided on my television screen and the only things I felt overwhelmed by were fear and sadness.
It's been one week since those 26 lives were gunned down on a Friday morning in the midst of the holiday season. Seven days since 20 first graders were robbed of their class parties, holiday recitals and the chance to lick the batter off of their moms' baking spoons. And now there are twenty homes where someone won't be there to leave cookies out for Santa and lie awake in bed, listening for the sounds of sleigh bells and reindeer hooves on rooftops.
And for those seven days, I haven't stopped crying. Because every time I wrap a gift, I can't help but think of those that will go unopened, and every time my own kids get to share in one of those magical moments this season brings, I am reminded of all of those who aren't here to do the same. And my heart aches for the parents who have lost everything to darkness and violence at a time when the world is lit up by twinkling lights and singing songs about peace.
And one week later, the fear remains. Sure it subsides at times, but it's always lingering, waiting for the opportunity to resurface. Yesterday, it was my eight-year-old's class trip to see The Nutcracker -- the one for which I'd signed the permission slip weeks ago, long before I'd ever heard of Newtown, CT, and long before the world was reminded that it only takes an instant for every parent's worst nightmare to become reality.
I didn't want to send her, but then again, I didn't want to send her to school, to music lessons or anywhere else, either. She was so excited to go and even begged me to wear her Christmas dress to the ballet, which made me think about Charlotte Bacon, the six-year-old who begged her own mother to wear her holiday dress to school on that fateful Friday. And I thought about how if her mother hadn't given in, she would have never had the chance to wear it at all. So, I sent my child to the ballet, in her dress, in honor of Charlotte Bacon, and in honor of all of the innocent souls lost last week. Because while this most wonderful time of the year is traditionally celebrated with parties and decorations, perhaps this year, the most wonderful thing we can celebrate are those lives that were cut too short. And maybe the best way to do that is to let our own children live each moment of their lives like it was the last.
And while she went to the ballet in her best dress, my younger daughter bestowed her teachers with the gifts I'd finally settled on: tubs of homemade cookies. Baked with the traditional dollop of love, of course, but this year, with a dash of tears as well.
Merry Christmas in Heaven, Charlotte Bacon, Daniel Barden, Rachel Davino, Olivia Engel, Josephine Gay, Ana M. Marquez-Greene, Dylan Hockley, Dawn Hochsprung, Madeleine F. Hsu, Catherine V. Hubbard, Chase Kowalski, Jesse Lewis, James Mattioli , Grace McDonnell, Anne Marie Murphy, Emilie Parker, Jack Pinto, Noah Pozner, Caroline Previdi, Jessica Rekos, Avielle Richman, Lauren Rousseau, Mary Sherlach, Victoria Soto, Benjamin Wheeler, Allison N. Wyatt
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