Christmas is four days away. My gifts are mostly unwrapped. I have yet to plan dinners or bake cookies with my children to leave out for Santa. Houses strung with Christmas lights haven’t been driven by, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas hasn’t been watched. It’s not just me. Parents all over are finding it difficult to get into the holiday spirt because we are still all too sad and raw over the lives lost one week ago today.
When my kids came home from school yesterday my daughter asked me “Mom, are you still sad?” I explained to them that yeah, I am, and that everything is okay and I love them and listened as they told me of their field trips and class parties. I know they are excited. The enthusiasm they have for the holiday, for the candy and cocoa and bedtime stories and toys should be contagious, but it’s not. I make them popcorn and set them down with a Christmas movie on television and scrub my kitchen counters, that don’t need scrubbing. There is something about the warm water, the force of scouring that comforts me, that momentarily distracts me from thinking of the people of Newtown.
My inner me is getting impatient with me. What the hell is my problem? Don’t I realize how blessed I am? That I have beautiful children who are safe and sound and feeding popcorn to the dog and I am so lucky. I am so so fucking ungodly lucky. I am the luckiest mother on earth and I tell myself to snap out of it, that it wasn’t my children who were hurt, that I’m not the mother collapsing on the floor after finding a tiny stray sock in the laundry room hamper, that I’m not the parent deciding what my child should be buried in. It’s almost repulsive, my grief, the transference of these parents hundreds of miles away whose pain is not mine, that I have stolen and made into my own sadness. How dare I cry when my world is not in shambles?
I grieve for them, I know this, I am not that way, I am not just sad because I’m being selfish. I am sad for them. I am so sad for them. I try and find hope. I plan to give back during this season. I research charities. I find comfort in the actions of strangers. I find comfort in my family. I smile and scrub counters and I want to have fun with my children, to be the happy, laughing, cookie-decorating mom who welcomes warm little bodies into my arms as I read the Christmas stories. But I can’t. It doesn’t feel right.
My children know I am sad but they don’t see me cry. I lock myself in the bathroom and run water. I go into the living room and sit on the sofa between two small people, and find myself inhaling my daughter’s breath into my mouth as she kisses me. I breathe her in and I never exhale.