It’s December 14th and I have a first-grader again, just like three years ago.
I remember picking Dash up from school on this day in 2012. I was trying hard not to think about the news that was still coming out, but already terrible, unthinkable, not to be thought of. I remember looking at the faces of the other parents waiting outside the school, wondering if they had also been glued to the news, the radio, the internet, before they left the house to come here. Wondering if I should tell them, in case they didn’t know.
There’s something about bad news. You have to pass it on. Not because you want to make other people miserable, but because it feels dishonest to let them keep going without knowing about it.
I didn’t say anything to anyone. I continued to try not to think about it. I waited for my little boy, my gap-toothed, tousled-haired, inventive, smart, mile-a-minute first-grader to run out the doors so that I could hug him and take him home and give him extra cookies and not tell him why.
I didn’t even know they were first-graders then. The news said they were kindergarteners. That’s okay, I thought, clutching at any straw I could to distance my life from the lives of those who were being torn apart that day. Mine is in first grade. It wouldn’t have been him.
It could have been him. It could have been anyone, but it was twenty first graders and four teachers in Connecticut, in a perfectly nice neighborhood, in a perfectly safe school, where terrible things never happened. Couldn’t possibly happen.
In the three years since, my children have heard about planes that crashed into skyscrapers, about people who have nowhere to live because of war, about shooters in Paris and bad people in other places. They’ve become used to emergency drills in school in case a bad guy ever comes and they have to hide in their classrooms. They think it’s normal; it doesn’t worry them unduly.
I’ve never told them about Sandy Hook.
It was a Friday, three years ago. The following Monday I didn’t have to send my children to school because we were flying to Ireland for Christmas. All the televisions at the airport were showing CNN, a nonstop news update on the victims, the shooter, the guns, what and where and how and why. I sat my two children directly below a pair of TVs, so that they couldn’t see them. I put headphones on their ears and movies on their little screen, and they were oblivious to the repeated words that might have caught their attention: first grade, teachers, elementary school, children, mother, son, dead.
This year I have a first grader again. I sent her to school this morning, just like every morning.