Newtown is taking down the memorials. Although more than two weeks have elapsed, people are still coming from all over bringing teddy bears, flowers, Christmas ornaments and other testimonies of their sorrow and solidarity and the town has decided that time has come to let go. Weather is a big factor and then there are traffic and road safety issues. Yesterday they closed off the roads near the school as well in the center of Sandy Hook proper. For one hour only the victims’ families were allowed in. We were encouraged to take whatever we liked. Once the families were done, everything that was compostable (flowers, Christmas trees, wreaths, etc.) would be composted, everything else gathered and kept in storage. All would later go into building a permanent memorial. There are rumors that the school might be torn down and a park put in in its place.
The girls picked the green chair. They’ll keep it in their room and I know they will always see Noah when they look at it, although truth be told, he was more often out of his chair than sitting quietly in it. As his teacher put it at the last parent-teacher conference, Noah always came up with good excuses to get up and move. Looking back, I am glad he moved as much as he could when he could…
Sophia picked a humongous and colorful stuffed fish that she said Noah would have loved and Arielle chose Iron Man for the very same reason. She also picked a very tiny pink bear that she hugged close to her chest. Both girls were intent on missing nothing that had their brother’s name on it.
I am glad they are taking down the memorials. There is nothing sadder than teddy bears and balloons where twenty children and six teachers should have been, nothing more heart-breaking than the name of a lost child fluttering in the wind on a forlorn ornament, nothing more poignant than two little girls taking home an empty chair. So yes, let them take the memorials away.
A meeting is being organized this morning for the victims’ families. We are all going. My daughter says she needs to meet other mothers. There will be kids. Grandparents. Everybody handles grief differently. We will draw strength from each other. After the meeting we are invited to a dear friend’s house for a “comfy day” where nothing will be expected from us but to sit back and relax. Slippers welcome! It’ll be the first laid back day since the tragedy and I am looking forward to it.
Meanwhile little Noah has been weaving around us a circle of love such as we have never seen or believed possible. Our sons flew back home with their families but we are staying with our daughter and her kids for as long as necessary. Since her tiny house couldn’t possibly accomodate us the seven of us, we needed a place to live. Yesterday perfect strangers offered us their home. They are grandparents who spend their winters in Florida near one set of grandchildren and their summers in Connecticut near another of their kids’ family. They understand the need. In a heartbeat they had the utilities reconnected and the Internet back on and here we are, staying for at least a month in the house of people we have never met. They called their neighbors who came to say hello, bringing extra towels, blankets and pillows and asking us to please tell them what else they could do for us. People are bringing food, the FBI is calling or writing to see how we are doing, the police sent someone to sand our daughter’s steep driveway that had iced over. A policewoman came to the house yesterday with two full bins of letters and packages which had been held at the triage center for security reasons. She said there are many more to come that have not yet been sorted. It takes a while to go through them (a task I have taken on at her request as the police prefers that parents do not open any mail themselves) but I know they will bring comfort to Veronique when she is strong enough to sit down and read them.
In another extraordinary show of love and support, my daughter’s colleagues (she is an oncology nurse) have donated their vacation days so that she can stay home as long as she needs to and only come back to work when she feels able to completely focus on her patients and their well-being. In other words, they are holding her job open for her. She loves it with a passion and would have been devastated to lose it. Her patients have sent cards and small presents: Veronique spends so much time with them that they know all about her family and her kids. They grieve for Noah too.
As for me I still spend most of the nights tossing and turning as I know my daughter does: I am wondering how to hold on to fleeting images of Noah I can still see with my mind’s eyes. It saddens me to think they might one day fade and disappear. He had an expressive face and could turn serious and attentive in an instant when he sensed a story coming. I loved telling him about his mom’s and his uncles’ childhoods or recalling for him the feats of long-ago pets: how one of our golden retrievers had been obsessed by frisbees and thought that all frisbees in the world belonged to her by right: she would jump up and catch any frisbee that came her way in a park and refuse to give it back; how my grand-parents who lived in a small French village had taught their German shepherd to go to the butcher for them carrying a little basket in her mouth: there were a purse and a note in the basket and the butcher always wrapped a bone for the dog as a reward; how our first dog, a cocker spaniel, had been sick after eating a full tin of brownies, etc. I am glad he has all these stories with him now, keeping him interested and connected. I am glad too that, little rascal that he was, he looked for and found the Christmas present we had sent him from Seattle back in November. He opened it and played with it. His mom wasn’t going to tell me but now of course she did. I am happy Noah was who he was and lived his short life to the fullest. But how I wish he had stayed home with a cold to school on that fateful day…