I’m not going to write about Friday, but I’ve done nothing but think about it. We have been careening from actions of self-comfort and normalcy to obsession with the news, much as we did in the aftermath of 9/11. We decorated our Christmas tree on Friday night, but it was a more sober affair than usual.
It’s the small details that stick in your head, as if the whole tragedy is too much to understand. We cling to the details. I can’t, for example, look at the growing pile of packages in my bedroom without thinking of similar packages in 26 homes that will go unopened this Christmas.
Fortunately as small things take us deeper into the blackness, so too small things bring us back. I think I noticed every child I passed this weekend. And I had plenty of time for noticing, because I walked many miles around my neighborhood trying to pull together Christmas.
On Saturday, AJ and I watched as a small boy, riding his tricycle up the sidewalk alongside his father who was walking the family dog, stopped dead in front of the firehouse to stare at the truck parked in front. After he sat there for a minute or so, a firefighter came out, scooped him up off his trike, and deposited him in the cab of the hook and ladder, right behind the steering wheel. The look on the boy’s face was enough to restore my faith in humanity.
I spent most of the day shopping. In the late afternoon, AJ and I went over to Cranky‘s for a Hannukah party — AJ’s first. After an evening of foods he’d never tried before (latkes! pastrami!! chopped liver!!!), he needed something familiar, so I took him out for a plain slice (that’s Brooklyn talk for a piece of cheese pizza), which he ate like a New Yorker (folded in half like a pizza sandwich) and we walked to a concert. The concert turned out to be less than inspirational, but it was pleasant until AJ decided that it was torturing him. At which point we headed for home.
Today I was determined to stay in, but instead walked to AJ’s basketball game (close but lost) and made several round trips to the store to pick up forgotten items before embarking on an afternoon of chili-making and cookie baking. Cranky and Toddler J joined us for the latter. Toddler J was quite taken with all the Christmas regalia in our house. She made a careful examination of our tree, sang happy birthday to the “baby camel” (actually a donkey) in the line of carved wooden camels, tried to stack a wooden Mary and Joseph on top of two of the three kings (in fairness, their crowned heads are nice and flat), found the rubber duck with reindeer antlers in the shower and adapted the lyrics of Ernie’s Rubber Duckie song for the occasion (“Moose rubber duckie, you’re the one…”, and stared and stared at the tiny music box that plays Jingle Bells while a miniature sleigh goes around and around a Christmas tree, stopping only long enough to had it to me and say, “again!” We iced a big pile of cookies and sampled the fruits of our labor.
There is nothing like Toddler J for some high quality distraction.