Clif came down with a fever on the afternoon of Christmas, not a huge one but enough that he had the pale look of a Dickensian street urchin. I was sorry for him but ready to hunker down with the rituals of the flu: thermometer, fluids, pillowcases, meds, and most of all, my boy.
Yesterday, he woke up feeling worse than the day before, so I spent the day sitting upwind from him in the den as he burrowed into the sofa, an endless pipeline of ESPN pouring into the room, his iPad at hand, his phone. He didn’t engage with anything much, limp as a noodle, so I sat there all day, knitting, thinking, knitting, thinking.
As we all know, knitting isn’t really about knitting. I hadn’t spent such a concentrated period at my knitting for many months. I’ve had a lot on my mind this fall—happy things, daily irritations, a volunteer project. And very, very depressing things. What’s legitimate to think about? What’s maudlin? What’s irrelevant? Everything, I concluded. It’s all legitimate, and maudlin, and irrelevant. All at the same time. Life is beautiful and horrible; work is important and pointless. I’ve never felt these paradoxes so clearly, and I’ve never been at a place where they seem so impossible to reconcile.
My heart has been so heavy, so leaden these past weeks. Like you, I was stunned by the events in Newtown. (Such a name for that place, indeed a new town that we all inhabit together.)
I don’t buy the idea that Newtown was Just One Of Those Things That Happens These Days. It wasn’t random. It was the result of a series of choices made by parents, by a child, by government officials. And because those government officials are elected by the people, it means that we the people had a hand in those choices. You are right, Kay, that we have to demand change. I’m still thinking about how best to do that, but it’s clear that we are failing badly if we lay low about the issue of assault weapons. Everyone who is horrified, disgusted, and angry needs to use that energy in the coming months to bring about real change. I will need reminding myself, as the weeks pass and daily life resumes.
I don’t know a thing about guns except that I despise them. Our culture has turned weapons into videogames so sophisticated that the blood splatters on the screen with every hit. There are Nerf guns for toddlers, AirSoft pellet guns for tweens. You can see ten people gunned down in a two-minute movie trailer. How is this entertainment? I’m so outraged—but I am also the mom who lets her kids play Call of Duty and watch James Bond. Why do I allow this? Because it’s easy, and lazy. I’ve been thinking about how to work on this.
Yesterday, I looked at my boy, dozing on the sofa, and I wished I could knit a dome over him, some sort of protective web like the ones the Amazing Spider-Man throws in the movie we watched together. You know how it feels when someone you love is sick? How you feel a little sick, too? That’s the feeling that I don’t want to lose: that empathy, the feeling that Newtown is our town, too.