Sunday, October 13, 2013
We were in Kingston, Ontario, for the day (across from the U.S. side of the St-Lawrence River, where we used to spend our summer vacations when we lived in the Northeast) and he was dragging his feet walking back to the car. In fact all three little ones were. The only thing that kept them moving forward -albeit slowly- was the prospect of an ice-cream at White Mountain, always a treat, even for the grown-ups, even for this grown-up who doesn't really like ice-cream (gasp!) but happens to harbor a serious weakness for White Mountain's raspberry frozen yogurt in a waffle cone.
Anyway we had stopped along the way by the old church staircase and I took a picture of the five siblings in descending order with the twins on the bottom step, then eveyone got ready to move on except Noah who showed no inclination to follow suit despite the promised treat and actually climbed all the way up to the church door. Sitting by himself on the steps in his oversized shorts, he looked like a little rebel. I snapped his picture and held out my hand. After a while he put his in it and came down. We started along the street again.
Just as we were passing an old-fashioned limestone tavern, a recessed door opened and a woman shuffled out, pushing a walker. She looked frail and her face bore deep lines. Noah glanced at her and pronounced matter-of-factly in his naturally booming voice: "This woman is very, very old." I was turning to offer an apology when the woman burst out laughing. She asked Noah how old he was and when he replied "three", she said they all looked like great kids and she hoped they were having a wonderful day. To me, she said she had recently been very sick and understood how she might appear ancient to a three-year old. By that time, the twins were pulling forward, excitedly debating ice-cream flavors. I wished the woman the best and we smiled good-bye.
Little memories that pop up unannounced bring back the past so vividly that the world seems to have been put right again. Then reality floods back in and for a minute you find yourself both smiling because of what once was and crying because of what no longer is. The truth is that contrary to all appearances, there is nothing ordinary about ordinary life, certainly nothing that should be taken for granted. When you walk down a street holding hands with some of your favorite little people, you better cherish the moment and engrave it in your memory: there is no guarantee it will come by again. Ten months after the shooting, it still defies comprehension that six years is all the life Noah ever had.