She Won’t Remember Any of This

Last night, we kept the TV on Max & Ruby.  I grilled hamburgers and boiled up some corn on the cob.  Carlos stomped around in one shoe while saying, “Cars!  Shoe!  Banana!  Hug!  All Done!”  Vivi and I made banana muffins with the new mixer.  She and G read a book called “100 Ways to Make Your Dog Smile.”  She asked the difference between a terrier and a bird dog, so I told her all about hunting dogs–terriers, pointers, sight hounds, retrievers.  I told her about the German Shorthair Pointer we had when I was her age, a dog named “Circles” for the three aligned spots at the base of her tail.  The TV sat silent.  Vivi made up songs about my favorite colors and belted them into a plastic Dora the Explorer microphone.  We packed her lunch for camp the next day–she chose strawberry milk, sour cream and onion potato chips, carrots, applesauce, ham and cheese sandwich and a couple of banana muffins for snack.

We didn’t talk about tornadoes.  Just like after Boston, when we didn’t talk about bombs, or Newtown when we didn’t talk about guns.  Or all the other days before that, when we kept the TV silent, those days where G and I shared long looks over the top of the children’s heads and whispered sadnesses behind closed doors.

lairFriday was her last day of kindergarten.  When I asked her what she thinks is her biggest accomplishment this year, she chirped, “READING!”  This weekend, G bought her a big stack of Junie B Jones books about kindergarten and first grade.  I think we both assumed that we would be reading them to her, but Vivi has other ideas, grand ideas.  She built herself a hidey hole under my desk on Saturday morning.  She filled it with two warm blankets, a pack of gum, a box for treasures, a couple of stuffed animals and her stack of books.  She calls it her “lair.”  She’s already tearing up the books and I am online ordering more, like feeding coal into a roaring furnace.  The Magic School Bus is in the mail.

Our town has sirens.  Our brick house has a basement.  There is a small room down there with cinder block walls and no windows.  She knows that when storms get dangerous, we all sit in there.  She needs to know that, but she doesn’t need to know…this.

I see her reading in her lair, cozy in her Sonic pajamas, with Pengy tucked under her arm and a bountiful lunch in the fridge, all waiting on tomorrow.  One phrase comes to mind:  “Shield the joyous.”

I haven’t participated in any kind of religion for 20 years, but after Richard died, my friend Robin gave me a red leather Book of Common Prayer from the Episcopal church.  She knows how I love words and poetry.  She wanted me to have the words that were said at our wedding and at his memorial.  What a gift Robin has been to my life.  There is one prayer in particular that she gifted to me, as I had spent so many sad nights alone in my house.

“Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, sooth the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen.”

Many times (even if I edited it some to match my beliefs), I have read this prayer for Compline before bedtime and choked upon the words “weep,” “sick,” “dying,” depending on the time of my life.  Now I read it and choke back tears on “shield the joyous.”  This night, I am a mother and one of the few things I can do in this life is shield the joy of my children from the weary truths of this suffering world.

It can’t last forever.  There will be a time when Vivi and Carlos are old enough to know.  There will be times when we turn the TV on and set them in front of it so that they can KNOW.  I remember a time like that when I was 10 years old–1978 and the Jonestown Massacre.  My parents watching the news, as cameras panned over silent fields of corpses, bloating in the jungle heat.  Poisoned by their own hands because their leader told them to.  My mother thought that they should turn the TV off, that we were too young to watch.  I vividly remember my father saying firmly, “No.  You kids need to know this can happen.  You need to know about this kind of bullshit so you don’t get caught up in it.  Sit down and watch.”  He was right.  I’ve never forgotten it.

As Vivi was dancing off to bed last night, a thought hit me:  “She won’t remember any of this.”  She is turning six in a couple of weeks.  When I think back to six, I don’t remember much, just a general idea about life and how it was.  A couple of school memories.  A few friends.  There are a few pictures, somewhere at my mom’s house.  So Vivi won’t remember this day, those banana muffins, the songs we sang.  She won’t remember the tornadoes in Oklahoma because I shielded her from that.  I hope that she remembers that she was loved every second of her life by people who put a lot of effort into keeping her safe and healthy and happy.  I hope she knows that we kept watch over her while she slept, all for love’s sake.

The Reverend Lauren McDonald has written a lovely meditation on “Shield the Joyous” on her blog, Leaping Greenly Spirits.  She’s another one of those super awesome kids from the Governor’s Honors 1985!

30 thoughts on “She Won’t Remember Any of This

  1. Sara Amis

    She might not remember all of it, but it’s funny what you do remember. I remember that when I was very small, my father would put Johnny Cash on the stereo and carry me around to get me to go to sleep. He smelled of tobacco and always had a pocket protector with drafting pencils in it 🙂

  2. Terri

    I agree completely. There is plenty of time for them to learn the lessons about real-world tragedies, and her heart will never be the same. I was so, so thankful that on 9/11 Josh was not quite 2 and happily playing with Thomas the Tank Engine in the other room while I gaped at the news. Let her be joyous and blissfully unaware for just a while longer. 🙂

  3. Terri

    And I’m sharing one of my own favorite prayers from the BCP (page 829):

    Almighty God, heavenly Father, you have blessed us with the joy and care of children: Give us calm strength and patient wisdom as we bring them up, that we may teach them to love whatever is just and true and good, following the example of our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

    Fr. Doug used to pray that at the opening of preschool orientation every year, and I love love love it. Feel free to modify it to suit yourself. 🙂

  4. Michelle

    Lovely post. I remember reacting to the Newtown shooting by thinking, “how can I bring a child into such a scary world? How can you protect them against things like this: not just being shot, but seeing it on the news, knowing that evil exists?”
    As for the tornadoes, I’m afraid I’ve been a bit of an ostrich. At almost 41 weeks pregnant (boo!), I think I need to give myself a little bit of a “bad news blackout” and protect myself from tragedy. Maybe that’s selfish, and I know it can’t always be this way, but sometimes you need to self-bubble too.

  5. bdh63

    Your children will remember a happy childhood even if specific events get lost. Your description of the school lunch was awesome — you managed a great one. So sad about OK. So incredibly sad for the moms and dads and brothers and sisters and the families of the teachers and staff and for all of us who bear witness. At least we can still hug our children tonight.

  6. maryhelenc

    I guess I’m in the minority, because I don’t shield my children. Part of it is because I work in media, the job that provides for them is news. The other is that children will eventually hear about these things and I’d rather I explain things in an age appropriate way as opposed to them hearing it @ school where some kid says “everyone died” or whatever. Today the kids learned about tornado safety, so even if I had shielded them, they would have learned about it. Same with Newtown. Of course, my eldest is almost 12, so she’s old enough to understand what guns are and her teachers old enough to discuss it. So, I explain in an age appropriate manner. I shield them by not telling them gory details, but they know that bad things happen in the world and we need to pray for those people, offer to help if we can, etc. But again, it’s part of my job. I can’t present information and then say that it’s not acceptable for my children to learn it, kwim?

    1. Baddest Mother Ever

      When Newtown happened, we talked about what to do if she ever came in contact with a gun. I never mentioned an armed madman with an assault weapon because there’s nothing a five year old can do about that. She already worries about tornadoes and we practice the safety steps…we just don’t talk about the horror of one leveling a school because there’s nothing she can do about.

  7. Michelle

    I’ve chosen to shield myself, too. I didn’t turn on the news until last night, I just couldn’t bear to see. In a world where we are inundated with news – this was a much better time to say a prayer than be consumed by it all. Another great post!!!!!!

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  9. Heart To Harp

    It is a blessing that at this age you can indeed shield her from the worst of life’s tragedies. She will learn about them far too quickly as the years progress. And while she might not remember this specific night of making banana muffins, she will remember and embody the love and care that surrounded and protected her, and will in turn pay that forward to those in her life and in her care.

    1. Baddest Mother Ever

      That is my solemn wish. I tell her I love her, that she is wonderful and smart, that she is a beautiful creature…all in hopes that those words become the voice inside her that she hears when she is older!

      1. Heart To Harp

        And that is one of the most wonderful things I’ve ever heard from a mother-the desire to create a nurturing, loving, supportive and positive inner voice in their child!

  10. Amanda Harris

    That prayer has long been my absolute favorite part of Compline, and this post was a lovely meditation on it. Thank you!

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