Saturday, December 22, 2012
Noah Pozner: connections
They told me they had just trimmed their Christmas tree, which is probably why Noah was so excited. We talked of the coming holidays, of our planned visit to Connecticut for Sophia's birthday the following month. Sophia was the first to run to the tree, remove an ornament and dangle it in front of the camera. After that, they all took turns doing it. As it happens their ornaments mostly came from our old house. Each had a story and the kids were captivated. I couldn't see the Christmas tree, only hear their rushing footsteps as they took turn un-trimming the tree, showing me the ornament, listening to what I had to say and running to put it back up.
At one point, Noah was alone in front of the camera and his sisters remained by the tree. We talked a bit (I don't even remember what about) and then he just sat there quietly looking at me, a serious expression on his face, his big gorgeous eyes staring straight into mine. I have no clue what he was thinking about but I was reminded of the long searching look my beloved mother-in-law gave me at the airport after spending her last Christmas with us back in 1992. She probably knew she wouldn't come back (although we certainly didn't) and she was saying goodbye. Her look had been one of love and sorrow: she was burning my face in her memory. So when Noah looked at me so intently and for such a long time without talking or moving, I felt a slight chill. I also felt a connection had been established. The girls came back, we said goodnight (it was getting late for them). I didn't have the slightest feeling of premonition or impending doom but I never saw or talked to Noah again.
The following day, for no special reason I can remember, just on a whim really, I changed the wallpaper on my smartphone to a dreamy landscape with misty mountains in the background and a lovely meadow in the foreground. The image is otherworldly and serene and it reminds me of long ago summers in the Swiss Alps. It is like music for the eyes.
But after the tragedy, when my daughter evoked the sunny valley where Noah and the other kids were surely now playing and waiting for the rest of their families to join them, I felt another chill. I showed her the picture and she found some degree of solace in its serenity, also in the fact that I had put it on my phone the day before she lost her son.
Establishing connections is one of the ways we make sense out of our existence. I don't read Noah's look or the image on my phone as premonitory messages but because both are linked so closely in time to the most horrific event in our lives, I know I will remember them forever, just as I remember my mother-in-law's silent farewell, and they will bring depth and maybe a bit more meaning to what would otherwise remain a stark, bleak and opaque life event.