The children are well now, except for a cold. Even if they were still sick, last week's tragedy would have left me grateful even to have them vomiting on me.
Everyone I know is grieving. Saturday I found myself at 6 pm still in the tshirt I slept in the night before. I did not tell the kids about the tragedy until Sunday evening. I wanted to keep it from them, but I knew they would hear something about it in school, and I wanted them to hear it from me.
A bad thing happened at a school in Connecticut. Some children were killed. The whole country is sad. I normally wouldn't tell you about something like this, but I think you will hear about it at school tomorrow. If you hear anything that scares or upsets you, you can talk to me about it.
My nine-year-old had covered her ears before I was through the second sentence.
Is there anything you want to ask me now?
Yes, said my seven-year-old. Can I forget everything you just said?
Yes, honey. You can.
This tragedy doesn't feel like the others. As terrible as those were, they still felt like other people's grief. This feels like our own. Everyone looks stricken. At school this morning, there were more parents dropping off kids in person. There were more kisses and I love yous, and none of us grown-ups met each other's eyes. We were too naked.
I can say that I can't imagine how those other parents are feeling. But it isn't true. We can imagine it. We're all imagining it. I can't experience it. I can't put my shoulders under their burden and heft it off their shoulders for a while. If imagining could do that for them, I should never let up.
But imagination can't. Our national grief breaks our hearts, but isn't the same as a familiar voice forever absent from the dinner table. Our lesser grief allows us lapses. For the space of a Christmas carol or a cup of coffee with friends, we can be distracted from it.
That's not bad. That's relief. It's okay to be distracted. Because unlike a seven-year-old, we know we really can't forget.
But I'm going to try to stop imagining.