Today was a lovely spring day, with crocuses blossoming, buds emerging on the trees and the warm sun cutting through a slightly chilly breeze. As I watched Amelia and Betsy chase the robins around the park, I felt relieved that the weather was turning and just happy to sit in the grass while they played. That lighthearted feeling came crashing down only a few hours later when I heard of the events that brought the 117th Boston Marathon to an abrupt and violent end.
As I read the news, Amelia looked at me and said, “Mama sad?” And when I said yes, she pulled my head to her face and kissed me. But I can’t explain to her why I’m sad, not simply because she won’t understand the words, but because I can barely form them myself.
I am not a runner, though like many Bostonians, I have my marathon memories. But that’s not really where the sadness comes from. It comes from a torrent of different feelings conjured up by this horrible tragedy – anger for the attack on my home, longing to retrieve the innocence that has surely been lost, empathy for those caught in eye of the storm and even guilt for being so far from my home at such a painful time.
And when the “Why?!” and “How?!” and “Enough!!!” threatened to overcome my mind, I was grateful to bend outward to find relief in routine, and solidarity, wisdom and hope in the words of others.
There is no doubt that the healing properties of my daughter’s smile – and her sweet kiss – helped buffer the shock of the news, but that smile often vanishes when it’s time to put down the crayons and go to bed. But go to bed she must, and the myriad tasks that accompany bedtime, though mundane, served to remind me that life does go on.
And now, in the quiet house with the child fast asleep, it is the words of a friend, a comedian, an icon and a musical genius that are helping me claw through the darkness and find hope.
- From the achingly beautiful blog post of my dear friend Martha: “I hope all of you in Boston can hear me, and feel my hand reaching out.”
- From the pen of comedian Patton Oswalt: “…the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak.”
- From the brilliant mind of the cherished Fred Rogers (aka Mr. Rogers): “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”
- And finally, always finally, this song:”You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”
Next week I will be taking my daughter for her first real visit to Boston. I can already see her joy at chasing the pigeons across the Common, making faces at the fish in the Aquarium and trying to take a swim in the Charles. And I can also hear John Lennon in my ear, soothing me as we traverse my wounded city and tugging me from despair and towards hope.