This week has been one of great sadness and reflection for most of us. Any kind of tragedy, natural or un-natural, that takes even one child is hard to bear. Tragedy that takes 20 children and the teachers that loved them is nearly impossible to bear. The intolerable weight of the loss, and the unimaginable truth that this was a purposeful act has given all of us reason to pause.
So easy to take for granted that when we drop our kids off at school they should be safe. What sane person could ever imagine such evil? They were defenseless babies, for Christ’s sake.
We can argue all day about gun control, mental health care, violent video games, broken homes, parental responsibility, and security in schools. But the fact is that some people are just broken. They are born broken the same way that some cars are just lemons. They rolled out of the factory with a critical flaw. Sometimes the flaw is apparent early, and sometimes there is no warning to the catastrophic system failure that will come.
We can’t prevent every tragedy, or anticipate every evil. We can never know when our time will come, or when life will take someone we love from us. What we can do is take the best advantage of the time we do have together.
Hug your loved ones. Tell them you love them. Enjoy the many little joys that may pass you by without notice. It’s amazing how they diminish the power of the big ugly things to cause you unhappiness. Did your child color on your new leather sofa with a Sharpie pen? So what!? It’s a thing, and you can still sit on it, right? Don’t go too hard on him (or her)…He was trying to make it prettier. Relish whatever new “experiences” your little man may bring into your home. The parents of 20 first graders would gladly hand a 20 pack of Sharpies to their budding artist, if only to have their child back again.
I spend a lot of time remembering my kid’s toddlerhood. I blog about a lot of it. But I don’t think and talk so much about my own childhood, which is a shame, because it was AWESOME. The other day, my fifteen year old said “Mom, I don’t know much about your childhood….Except that you were going to marry Shane, because he gave you all his frogs…..” He wanted me to tell him some stories about when I was a kid….”you know, Mom, the ancient times….” Little fart.
But he was right, so I started thinking and sharing about my childhood, and how great it was. How safe I always felt. It was just a time of fun and frivolity.
Through Kindergarten, I went to an Episcopal school called David Wick’s. It was awesome. We did exercises down the long, red-carpet hall way every morning. Skipping up one direction, and hopping back the other. The Crab-Crawl. The Elephant Walk. I don’t even think my body will bend that way anymore.
Recess was a whirlwind of important matters. Running through the half-buried tires. Playing in the sandbox. Hanging from the monkey bars. Playing in the big cement tubes. The girls would sweep all the sand and gravel out of them, only to have the boys kick more in. Some things never change I guess.
There was the “kissing game”, where the girls and boys would chase each other, take one another into custody, and pretend to handcuff their captive to a pole. Then we would kiss them. A little peck on the lips. I might add that the “captives” did pretend to be handcuffed to the pole, and stuck around for their punishment. Then they would break their invisible bindings, and run free. Nobody would have thought to call it sexual harassment. (On that note: humans are the only animals that have now begun to punish their young for mimicking adult behavior. In other species, this is merely preparing for adulthood. Maybe it’s part of our societal problems that kids can’t even be kids anymore. They can’t play The Kissing Game without being charged with sexual harassment. Talk about laying something heavy on a kid that still sleeps with a teddy bear. Boo!)
After recess each morning, we had a snack of cookies and Kool-Aid. One cookie—iced molasses were my favorite—and one cup of Kool-Aid—green was my LEAST favorite—while standing in line to go back inside. Inside was awesome too. There was lots of coloring, my favorite. And no matter how out of the lines our work was, our teachers treated our masterpieces as if we were the next Da-Vinci or Degas. Of course, some of us were more Chagall or Klimt, but beauty is in the eye of he that beholds it, right?
There was a big rocking wooden row-boat. There was music class, and music recitals. And doing the Hokey Pokey…And we got to make macaroni necklaces and homemade butter by shaking cream and salt in a baby food jar, and then eating it on saltine crackers (that’s where the chef in me took root). I used to stand in the corner with my friend Kim, and we would say really, really terrible words—like “poopy” and “boogars”—and giggle uncontrollably. Heck, I’m giggling now.
My first boyfriend on earth was Scott Wagner. We got engaged in Kindergarten. Alas, it was a short-lived engagement. After Scott, I was going to marry a boy called Shane Murray because, in my own words on the audio tape my parents made of me: “he gives me all his frogs”. I don’t remember being an amphibian fancier, but I guess it was a thing.
Speaking of my pre-school friends, I am still friends with some of them to this day. Kim Wade, David Custer, Trevor Hopkins, Shawn O’Connor, Wil Whiteside, Kenny Kohrs….And can still keep in touch with most of the others through mutual friends. Laura Welch, Lisa Barnes, Eb Zey, Gordon Heaney, among others. By the way, if you happen to have a really good memory like mine, I caution against just walking up to someone you haven’t seen since kindergarten and saying “didn’t you go to David Wick’s?” They tend to be really uncomfortable that you could actually recognize them so many years later. I am really sorry Wes Vardeman if I freaked you out in college that way. Yeah, I remember that too.
During this most carefree time of my life, the greatest tragedy that ever struck then was, as I call it, the Great Cheese Betrayal. You can read about it here, if you haven’t already:
There are some smells that take me back to that place so very quickly. Like the smell of tempera paints, and iced molasses cookies, and grape Kool-Aid. And some foods that I will still eat just because they make me feel like a kid again.
I am not going to post recipes today, but instead, my favorite meal line-ups from David Wick’s Episcopal School. Because we should all go home, and hug our kids, and feel happy just to be with them.
- Fish Sticks
- Macaroni and Cheese
- Green Beans
- Strawberry Jello
- Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches (Grape Jelly)
- Carrot and Celery Sticks
- Spaghetti and Meat Sauce
- Green Beans
Go home tonight and make a quick meal like one of these, and spend time with your kids (young or old) and remember being a kid yourself.