Boston, one year later

We’re leaving for Boston soon (nice try, creepy burglar people, but we have a housesitter and trained attack kittens) and I’m so excited. Friends I haven’t seen in years, research for my novel, the always heart-filling fun of watching Spouse run a marathon.

But I’m worried. We haven’t told the kids about last year’s tragedies. We don’t plan to. I really, really really, really don’t want to. Really. Last year was devastating. Disgusting. Terrifying. Enraging. Like many others I spent every single ounce of saline in my body weeping for the families affected by those monstrous acts. I spent all night watching Twitter as the police went from my old work neighborhood to my improv neighborhood to my friends’ neighborhood tracking the alleged bombers. Brothers.

Photo: David L. Ryan/Boston Globe

Photo: David L. Ryan/Boston Globe

I’m looking forward to seeing how Boston is healing itself. I love that town and I keenly miss being a part of its crispy, crunchy shell and gooey center. (Boston is the caramel M&M that the Mars company has never successfully created.) I want to celebrate Boston and its efforts, I want to feel the community that has overcome the most horrible act during a celebratory act on a holiday of revolutionary acts. I am thrilled we’re going to cheer for Boston.

But I don’t want my boys to hear anything about the bombings. I don’t want them to see or know or think or in any way learn about the families, the sidewalks, the streets that will never be the same.

How terrible is that, though? Is it disrespectful of those families and runners and spectators and first responders to keep this painful reality hidden from young children?The mother in me says no, but it feels wrong to hide the truth.

We’re going back to Boston because I could never fathom being away from that city this week. I started training to qualify for Boston the day after the bombings. (I didn’t get far. I’m easily injured and I have limited time for training. So it’s not going to happen this year.) So did Spouse. We contorted family plans and finances to get the family out to Mass. as soon as he qualified. We’ve been practicing the proper pronunciation of the Chaaahlie Caaaahds we’ll need next week.

But I don’t want them to know.

Is that wrong? Is it disrespectful? If it even possible, given all the love Boston is pouring into Back Bay this week?

I want to honor those who died, those who were injured, those who helped, those who ran, those who sought, and those who stopped…I want so much to do whatever I can to help the healing.

But I don’t want to tell my kids.

Does that make me weak? Parental? Cowardly? Ridiculous? Mature?

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When you’re down and troubled

Are you weary after the past week? Between Boston, Texas, Washington, and Watertown, I’m weary. And deeply sad.

Last Monday I vowed I would not use my phone at all. My son and I played all morning, and the phone rang. It was my mom, calling to tell me about the breaking news.

I couldn’t stop reading news on my phone. Text messages and Twitter and The Globe; I spent more minutes than I’d like to admit ignoring my child at the playground so I could scan through the news, cry, and scan through again. It wasn’t in vain, though. When a dad at the playground saw me crying he asked if I was reading about Boston. I told him I was. He said his brother was a volunteer at the finish line and that nobody could get a hold of him. I checked my Twitter feed and gave that sweet neighbor (who was doing a damned fine job of calmly and mindfully playing with his son while he wondered about his brother) the number to call and the Google site to check for his brother’s name. I let him use my phone because his had no service.

Then the breaking news of West, Texas. I saw the tragic story on Twitter before the television announced breaking news. My heart stopped when the Breaking News silence stopped whatever trivial crap we were watching, and I said aloud to Spouse, “Please, gods, no more breaking news.” I had already gasped at the Tweets and told him what they knew about the explosion in Texas, so we were sad and scared but not shocked. Until we saw the video of the blast. I’m so sorry for your pain and fear and losses, West, Texas.

Then Thursday, just before bed, after fuming very vocally about the disgusting cowardice of the United States legislature where representatives are supposed to vote, not just avoid taking a stand one way or the other, I checked Twitter. Manhunt in Boston. Young police officer dead. Chase and gunfight on a Watertown street I’ve been on dozens of times and that I still associate with love and peace. I stayed up almost all night watching reporters talk about the scared people near my improv and stand-up comedy home at MIT, the scared people right near a dear friend’s former house, and scared people all over the town whose hearts had broken a few days before.

Breaking news.
All night.
The heartwrenching, terrifying, “Dear Heavens, let everyone be okay” kind. The kind it’s so important to watch that the next day doesn’t feel like tired. It doesn’t feel like anything but shellshock.

It helped a bit to read things like this from The Onion.

But something really helped me last week, as I read and sobbed and wiped my eyes so I could read more.

Mr. Rogers helped me.

Before I read the lovely, hopeful letter from Patton Oswalt, someone in my feed Retweeted a quote from 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 thus began my effort all week to look for the helpers.

Like this guy.

And these guys

And the thousands who opened their homes to sad, scared runners

And even these guys

So in honor of Mr. Rogers, my good friend and neighbor Mr. Rogers, I’m going to spend this week being kind to every I see, and teaching my kids about the helpers.

(Below are some more, upbeat, old school Mr. Rogers for you. If you’re anything like me, watch one or two alone first, so you can cry big old fat tears for the really good people in this world.)

PBS Kids’ full episodes of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood

First day of First Grade

Oh, bloggity blogosphere. Hold me, for I am wrecked.

I wanted everything to go right today. Yesterday Peanut was terrible to his brother, and confessed when I asked why he seemed to bent on emotional destruction that “I’m worried about school tomorrow.”

Of course you are, I said. New people, new classroom, new things to learn. But you know, I reminded him, some of the people will be familiar. We checked the class list together right before dinner and he very much likes three of his returning classmates. We’ve seen the classroom before. And they won’t expect you to be in high school yet. They know what you learned in kindergarten, and they’ll start there for first grade.

It’ll all be okay. Uncomfortable in the beginning, but just fine once you get rolling. Hang in there. Newness fades fast.

And then I set out to make the day a success.I packed his favorite lunch. I gave him his backpack early enough that he could accessorize it with all his hoarder packrat-y bits of fluff and string and old raffle tickets. (Seriously, the kid’s middle name should have been Templeton.) I calculated and recalculated how long it would take us all to get ready, get the bikes out, and ride to school. I checked air pressure and helmet status and bike locks.

I woke early (I swear to Aphrodite, Butterbean, if you keep waking up so early and shrieking at me to get you vitamins, I’m selling you to the gypsies before you have a chance to unleash the Threes on me) and brewed some chamomile for the adorable little cautious and easily unsettled first-grader. I made a lovely breakfast. I kept Butter out of his face.

We made it ten minutes early and met the LOVELY teacher who fawned all over Peanut. Then I walked off with Butter for our first solo date in over a month.

And a few blocks later I sobbed. Walking down the street, toddler in my arms, I was more than a little surprised that I bawled to the tune of “I left my precious baby with someone else. Someone new who didn’t even know yet which of his resistances were based in fear, which stemmed from shyness, and which from assholishness.” Tears streamed down my face as I ordered coffee and a cheese roll for my littlest Little.

I got Butter to nap a bit late, but figured I’d wake him early to get his brother. First graders are important, and we must be on time. Don’t forget: first grade gets out later than kindergarten. Don’t forget.

The phone rang half an hour before I was to wake the little guy. (Why do phones only ring REALLY loudly when a small person is napping?)

“Did you know that today was an early release?”

My heart just fell to the floor, bounced twice, turned to crystal, and shattered down the stairs.

“Today is WHAT?!”

Every child in the first grade was taken into the safe, warm, loving arms of a caregiver, except mine.

The new teacher, who knows nothing of my commitment to family, learning, and being ten minutes early to everything, reassured me that Peanut was fine. In the office with our delightful secretary.

I grabbed the sleeping toddler, my keys, and the backpack I needed for our bike ride home. I walked as fast as a human has EVER walked the almost-mile back to my little boy.

Twenty-five minutes late the first day of school. His first experience of being a really big kid. And I screwed it up. Beyond screwed it up.

While I stew in that, I’ll add this tidbit for your information so you can help me pick out the right hair shirt for the next twenty years of self flagellation: Closing up his lunch this morning I wanted to add something extra, in case he was first-day-of-school hungry. Something easy, somewhat healthy, and adored…

A lovely, locally grown, organic apple.

For the kid with *three* loose teeth.

Effing parent of the century, don’t you think?