Hello sweet girl and happy 77 months! Right now you’re in the backseat of the car, playing Scribblenauts on the iPad while we make our way across South Carolina, then North Carolina, and finally into Tennessee. We’re headed to Nana and Granddaddy’s house for some Christmas fun, and meeting up with Jeff and his family.
We’re in the throes of the holiday season, which is always a busy time for us. When I last wrote to you, we were flying to Boston for Thanksgiving. The time with family was precious, and a highlight for me was the afternoon we spent exploring a sculpture garden with your Daddy, Erin and Jones.
The grounds are an incredible way for anyone to encounter art, but especially children. You got up close to the sculptures, you ran circles around them, you climbed under and through them.
There was a man blowing the most fantastic bubbles, so enormous yet light, swirling with rainbows of colors. You and Jones chased the bubbles across the grass, poking them with little fingers and then being showered in liquid as the bubbles burst.
Then the bubble master let you two have a turn blowing the magnificent bubbles. It was a happy sight I won’t soon forget.
This month you took your first out-of-town trip without a member of your family – what a big girl thing to do! Best buddy Lola took a birthday trip to the American Girl store in Atlanta and invited you and another friend to come along.
You’d be gone for two nights, and as we packed your bag and prepared to send you on your way, I wondered if you’d be nervous or homesick. But when the moment of departure arrived, you were nothing but giddy. I gave you a hug and told you good-bye, to which you replied, “Ok! Good-bye whatever your name is!”
Clearly, you were not worried about missing me, your nameless mother.
And according to Mrs. Ashley, you had the time of your life. You girls went back and forth between the hotel pool and hot tub, and even ordered room service both nights (pizza of course). The hotel had a special American Girl package, and your room was decorated completely in pink, with matching pink terry bathrobes for you and your dolls, pink beds for the dolls, a pink bean bag chair – Ashley says you girls nearly fell over with joy upon entering the pink room. There was much happy screaming. Ashley did an excellent job of documenting your adventures, both in her blog and in these photos she took.
Another highlight of the past month was the Festival of Lights on Hutchinson Island in Savannah. After winding through a beautiful display of roadside Christmas lights, the road terminates at a festival with all sorts of animals. You and buddy Lilly got to ride atop a camel before we headed over to the petting zoo where you split your time between feeding the animals, and wrapping yourself around the mini pony, declaring you needed one of your own. (I agree).
Then we capped off the event by making smores at one of the fire rings while a machine blew fake snow at us. Hey, in Savannah that’s all the snow we’re going to get, so we’ll take it!
Festive though it was, there was a cloud hanging over the activity for me. I’ve felt that cloud over all our holiday activities since last Friday. Over everything, actually.
You don’t know anything about what happened last Friday. One day I’m sure you’ll hear about it – maybe tomorrow, maybe in 10 years. Last Friday, a very sad, very sick man killed 20 children in an elementary school, and several of their teachers. Twenty children in first grade. Twenty children very much like you.
School violence is always horrible, always devastating, but this hurt me in a new way. As one writer eloquently explained, there is just something special about a 6-year-old. In many ways you still have the dependence and innocence of a much younger child, but you are old enough and aware enough to be so engaged in the world around you. So alive. So curious. So full of promise. The kind of person who enthusiastically decorates a Christmas tree in a leotard and one sock, because she can. Because it’s fun.
This week, as I do every week, I’ve snuck into your room after you’re asleep to watch the comforting rise and fall of your chest. But this week, my thoughts have been troubled. I don’t understand how someone could look at a child, a child like you, and pull a trigger. You are a happy, healthy child, one with a bright future. And as your mother, your future has become my future. To imagine a future without you is to imagine a cold darkness. A place I cannot go, not even in my head.
I have to remember that the man who did this was just one man. And despite the horror, the story is full of heroes. Of good guys. When and if we talk about this, that is what I will try to help you see. That is what I need to see too. People are overwhelmingly good.
But for now, don’t be surprised if I ask for more hugs. If I hold you a little closer, a little longer. I am always thankful for you, but perhaps this month even more grateful for each day we have with one another. I love you so much.