What a lovely Christmas Eve at my sister-in-law’s house. My 17 year old niece and her friends played Twister out in the garage and then got on the karaoke machine to do their best rendition of “Mary, Did You Know?” and a number of popular country songs. Two of my niece’s friends are sisters, and they brought over a kitten who, surprisingly, was not too panicked with all those people about. Our tiny feline friend managed not to get her tail stepped on until she finally decided that discretion is the better part of valor and squeezed under the TV cabinet, where she hid for the remainder of the evening.
Aside from bite-sized Hebrew National hot dogs wrapped in pastry dough (I can’t bring myself to refer to them as “pigs in a blanket” since they’re kosher) and a ton of sweets, my sister-in-law made her excellent guacamole again. We watched the movie “Elf” while we passed around microwave popcorn and the two babies in attendance.
My nephews spent part of the time assembling my grandniece’s Christmas gifts. A large number of presents sat under the tree, and I suspect that most of them have the little one’s name on the tag. Opening of gifts will proceed in the morning.
I was so glad to be able to enjoy this very pleasant antidote to an experience earlier in the day. I had stumbled across a blog that just stopped me in my tracks. I found it difficult to read without becoming overly emotional. It is jarring indeed to realize that while we are enjoying our merry Christmas, there are families for whom that opportunity has been violently yanked away.
I highly recommend the blog The Parker Five, particularly the post Evil Did Not Win. I won’t give away all the content here, but I will say that this blog is written by the parents of one of the children who were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut this time last year. Please take a few moments to watch the video at the link above. Have a box of tissues handy.
I cannot forget my personal associations with Newtown, as irrelevant to the tragedy as they are. I had never heard of Sandy Hook School prior to the horrific events there, nor did I know anyone involved, but I did live about ten minutes away for several years before moving to California. In fact, you could say that Newtown was something of a hangout for me, particularly the C.H. Booth Library on Main Street and the Newtown (Blue Colony) Diner, just off Interstate 84. When I made a last-minute decision to leave the area in 1995 (to escape an unhealthy relationship), I had to leave most of my personal belongings behind. Among the few prized possessions that I have retained until this day is a novel purchased at a book sale at Booth Library. The diner served me countless breakfasts at three in the morning after I got off work. And after I relocated to Waterbury and Hartford, I always appreciated the free coffee and pastries passed out by Newtown residents at Exit 10 to help keep travelers awake and alert.
Even though I had already been gone from the area for a lot of years at the time of the murders, I still get a spooky feeling that is hard to describe when I hear the place names, streets and landmarks associated with the Newtown tragedy.
I can’t begin to imagine the experience of losing a child in an instant, nor what it is like to have Christmas come around with an integral piece of your heart missing. I’m not sure whether I agree with the authors of the blog that evil did not win this time around. But even if evil took the battle, it has surely lost the war. The support that has flooded into Newtown and the memorials throughout the world are proof of that.
Now that a year has gone by and the events of December 14, 2012 no longer make headline news, it is easy to forget. We have experienced so many violent tragedies here in America in recent years (from Columbine to Virginia Tech to the Aurora movie massacre and beyond), that it is easy to become jaded. We seem to have no choice but to harden our hearts to prevent going totally insane.
And so I respectfully suggest that there is a cure for this. Subscribe to the Parkers’ blog to find out the real effects of gun violence on a family and a community. Let them take you to a place from which there is no return.
In memoriam - Emilie Parker, age 6 (2006-2012)