Twelve years ago, a very good friend of mine was killed in the Pentagon on 9-11-01. He was from my little hometown of Sugar City, Idaho ("Where Nothing Ever Happens, Including Bad Things!"), and along with everyone I know, my world changed forever. It made the possibility of actually dying at the hands of terrorists real, and it haunts me still, I guess. Haunts me even more since Sandy Hook.
Rowen (age 9) came home from school today and told Elliott (who has been home sick since Thursday) that they had a "Lockdown Drill". She was telling him mostly because he missed it, and for a kid, a drill is kind of an adventure, right?
I was mostly just taken aback - I said, "So this is a drill for ... ?" And she said, "So if a bad person comes to the school to hurt or kill the kids, we know how to do a Lockdown."
I told them that when I was in elementary school (I am only 38, and I cringe every time I say things like "back in MY day..." because only OLD PEOPLE say that), we didn't have lockdown drills. It certainly never crossed my 8-or-9-year-old mind that someone would come to my school and start shooting people. Killing kids.
But this is Post-9-11. Post-Columbine. Post-Aurora. Post-Sandy-Hook. We have Lockdown Drills and teach our little ones words like terrorism and suicide bomber. Everything has changed. All the nightmares are possible, and all the grownups who love and care for children feel it like pain.
Around each of my children - and the whole world they inhabit - is the beautiful bright dome of Childhood. That's the world of coloring and swinging and learning and songs, and so, so much laughter . It's a sacred place, and so I feel incredibly blessed to live - most of the time - inside that dome, too. My entire life is better and more beautiful and funnier, and viewed from much closer-up because of these two small people in my care.
But their dome is a fragile one, and it's part of my job as Mama to keep it in place for as long as I can, to keep them safe and carefree and joyful, to keep our life a place of magic and caterpillars and bubble-blowing and refuge. It's the only way the world stands a chance, after all. Those sacred spheres inhabited by children.
My small ones have only ever known their bright world full of possibility and potential and laughter. They don't see that - like never before - its edges are tinged with the bruise-black clouds of a world gone to nightmare.
I found myself standing there in the kitchen, dazed, listening to my sweet small girl tell us what happens in a Lockdown Drill in case someone comes to their school to kill them, and wondered how the hell I manage to put them on the bus every morning. How we even manage to step out the door.
But I'm pulled out of my reverie when she finishes her tale, and without missing a beat, turns and asks if we can make popcorn and juice and have a porch picnic.
And just like that, I enter the sacred space of Childhood again. Most days I don't even notice the privilege it is to live here, because as every Mama knows, no pain or fear or sacrifice would ever be too great to shelter and shield small ones - to let them go on in their bright fearless world just a little longer. Today I noticed. And I'm grateful for that.
Dear Lord, let me live here as both inhabitant and protector for as long as I can, ok? It's the best and brightest place next to Heaven that I can imagine.