She needs new running shoes. She’s growing like a weed and likes it when I say that. She skips across the parking lot, the low winter sun casting a long shadow, an exclamation point to her thrill. I told her about the shooting, stumbled my way through the conversation, finding zero words when she asked why. She wears the dress I made her that’s pretty much too small. I treasure that she wants to squeeze into it anyway.
She told me where she’d hide if there was a scary person in her school and my eyeballs ached with tears as I drove down the road with hundreds of other alive people going places. Even I hadn’t imagined where she’d hide. It’s self-protection to not imagine it. It’s unimaginable. She tells me all about the outfit she’ll wear tomorrow with her new shoes. She tells me about her planned April Fools joke: to offer lavender essential oil to friends at school but actually give them peace & calming. “They’ll get all mellow and sleepy!” She howls at her trick. She wrote a story yesterday called “The Ant and the Caterpillar” and another called “The Diary of a Coffee Bean.”
Last night she fell asleep on the floor atop her giant stuffed bear as we watched the Olympic women’s slalom races. She had asked Andy to swaddle her two favorite stuffies together, like she does every night. Like he does every night. The swaddle compresses the whisper thin fabric together, holds their insides inside, holds Giraffey’s neck upright. George wears our dead cat’s collar. They are definitely Real*:
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
She is transfixed by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Jane Goodall, trying to decide who to be for Halloween and who to be for her third grade living statue. She is reading books about both women, trying to decide if she’d like to be a writer or a naturalist when she grows up. She has filled two blank books with facts about them, trying to decide if it’s more interesting to live off the land or hang out with chimpanzees. She gets to aspire to be things.
If this was our story, which photo would the media pull in memoriam?
We all want this to be better. We all want to be a country with the tiniest bar on that graph that shows gun deaths per 1000 people. We all want our children to not get shot at school. To those who don’t want to consider a radical approach to gun fatalities in our country (yes. RADICAL.): why not give it a try? You might think it won’t work but lots of smart people think it will work… Why not give it a try? I am thinking of a thing I really value – a thing that is a right in our country and something that defines my culture. Access to public lands is what I have come up with. I know, I know, it’s different and Andy told me all the ways my analogy will be argued against but I’m trying to understand. So: if public land use in the US was 6x more lethal than Canada and 30x more lethal than Australia, France, Spain and pretty much everywhere…and I was asked, based on fact and research, to give up my access as I’ve known it in an effort to reduce murder rates and increase safety in public places like schools, churches and concerts in my country I WOULD DO IT. I would give it a try.
I walk my kids to school and we take our time. I’m ok if we’re so late we miss it all together. I’ve long thought about home schooling and now seems like a good time to start. I feel desperate. I want to start something. We just pulled tickets for Pearl Jam concerts in Missoula and Seattle and I wish I wasn’t thinking what if. When I get home, I fold my sourdough into boules, wash the breakfast dishes. I don’t want to listen to the news or music. I scrub the grout on my kitchen floor listening to the soundtrack of my brain. Rage, sadness, frustration, motivation, hope play on repeat. My knees press into the stone tile and I let the tears come, imagining that I can relieve a grieving childless mother, just a bit, by holding her pain in my body.
The conversation will continue and it’s easy to think the same cycle will happen again: where we stay the current course and wait for the next real life horror show. Unless we don’t stay the course. Unless we truly open up to ideas we grew up thinking were wrong or untenable. What if some of those ideas are right and tenable? What if. What if we reform our systems and policies. From healthcare to violence prevention strategy to education to guns. What if we change. Do we have the integrity and courage to give it a try? Hey, if it doesn’t work, we can try something else. That’s what I tell my kids.
We have to keep trying.
Things to do:
- Respond to my post and other comments with respect, kindness and an open heart. I have my opinions and you have yours. This is a space to come together. Let’s learn and get shit done.
- Vote. If you, like me, think corporate gun lobbyists are negatively influencing politics in our country, here is a list of elected officials who have received NRA funding to help inform your next vote: Thoughts and Prayers and NRA Funding
- Join Moms Demand Action
- Read this incredibly moving essay by Kimberly Harrington: Please Don’t Get Murdered at School Today
- Read this informative piece by Nicholas Kristof that calls for us to approach gun deaths like we approached vehicular homicide a few decades ago (with great success) — as a public health issue: How to Reduce Shootings
- Participate in the Enough! National School Walkout on March 14.
* From the Velveteen Rabbit
So well said, Nici. I especially liked your ending with the things that ALL us moms (and grandmoms!) can do.
Thanks for all that you share.