Yesterday afternoon, January 8, 2011, my daughter and I got ready for some quiet reading time together.
Normally on Saturdays, while my husband and son are at the store or attempting some chore neither of us girls are necessarily good at, my daughter and I sit side by side like an old married couple… immersed in our magazine or book, we are happy and peaceful in the quiet world of story and thought. Sometimes she’ll look over at what I am reading and want to read it, too, just to see if she can. At seven and a half she can now easily read almost anything I’m reading, but it scares the life out of me to see her reach for my Newsweek before I have the chance to give her the latest National Geographic Kids.
So, I have learned to keep Newsweek and Time stashed away in secret hiding places around the house. I grab the mail now and newspaper before she wakes up or before she gets home from school. Somehow, I’ve managed to keep her innocent, inquisitive eyes away from the violent news stories that plague our world. That is, until yesterday. Yesterday my face revealed too much.
I thought she was reading her book as I opened up my laptop to get a quick dose of Yahoo news before diving back into my book. She was, gratefully, reading on the carpet instead of next to me on the couch, her eyes safe and far from the flourescent flicker of the screen.
Six dead, including a nine-year old girl, after gunman opens fire on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords during a public event in Tucson, Arizona.
“Mama? What’s wrong?” she was reading the expression on my face.
I tried to erase the fright written in my eyes while I skimmed through the details, hoping I had read it all wrong.
I slammed my laptop shut and changed the subject.
“Nothing important. Looks like there's something wrong with my computer. So, what are you reading, Tickle Maria? Can you read it out loud to me?”
No wonder there are so many Academy Award winning actresses who are mothers. I think Meryl Streep has something like five kids and twenty Oscar nominations.
“Mother Goose’s Book of Nursery Rhymes,” she answered, looking content again.
I had fooled her for now, wondering how much longer I’d be able to hide the horrors of the world from her. I thought about all the other mothers doing the same thing, acting normal in front of their little ones yesterday, making up excuses and stories to twist the truth, holding their children closer and longer, reading rhymes to keep from crying.
“Is The Owl and The Pussycat in there? I love that one.”
… and as we recited our beloved nursery rhyme together, I tried not to picture that nine-year-old girl in a sea of red. I tried to picture her in a beautiful pea-green boat, sailing peacefully by the light of the moon, the owl and the pussycat watching over her.