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What a week, what a world.

On Monday this week, my daughter’s 4th grade chamber orchestra had a concert alongside the 4th grade chorus at her public school. It has been so delightful to see my daughter thriving in the strings program at her school; she LOVES orchestra, and takes practicing for concerts very seriously, and it is just a joy to watch her play. And it was delightful, too, to watch the 4th grade chorus perform, knowing that several of the kids in it are my daughter’s friends (though it was also quite stressful, since only 2 of the 40 or so kids who were singing were wearing masks, making the concert the event where I’ve been exposed to the most “unmasked people’s aerosols” since before the pandemic; my own KF94 mask seems to have done its job, thankfully).

At the end of their performance, the 4th grade chorus led the entire auditorium in singing “Dona Nobis Pacem” (“grant us peace”) in 3 sections, in part as a response to the horrific mass shooting that took place a little over a week ago, next door in Buffalo. It was so beautiful, and it made me feel so hopeful. And then early the next day, I was able to get my daughter scheduled for her COVID booster, and that, too, made me feel so hopeful.

Bunny Odile has arms!
Bunny Odile now has both ears and both arms.

And then, less than 24 hours after watching an auditorium full of 4th graders making beautiful music, I saw the news of what happened in Uvalde, Texas. My daughter’s Texan peers were being slaughtered in their 4th grade classroom. The juxtaposition just wrecks me. Seeing the list, the next day, of the names and ages of the victims, I just wasn’t prepared – because how can you be? why should you be? – for all of the 9s, 10s, and 11s. My baby is 10. My heart is just so utterly shattered for their parents. For their families, their friends, their peers. Before I saw the news, I was so happy about getting my kid’s booster shot scheduled, because I just want to everything I can to keep my baby, everyone’s babies, safe. And I realize that’s never going to be entirely within my power, but goodness gracious, can we please just try? What kind of world have we created for our children?

When she got home on Wednesday, she told me excitedly that they had gotten to have “second recess” that day. What’s “second recess”? It’s when they “get to” jump out of the window and run to the playground, and it’s something my child’s teacher has them practice so that they can get out of their classroom quickly in an emergency. And bless my child’s teacher for coming up with a way to make that feel like a fun treat, but it was so hard to choke back the sobs as my daughter told me about it. Fucking hell, what a world we’ve made, that these sorts of drills feel like a normal, necessary part of going to school.

Past the heel on another sock.
Fending off despair by keeping my hands busy; socks are good when my brain is fried.

It struck me that I had been the same age as the kids killed at Columbine, and now my own child is the same age as the kids killed in Uvalde, and something about that just breaks me; I am surely not the only nearly-40 year old with a 4th grader, and the thought that it’s an entire generation of us living with this is just so terrible. I just…how are we supposed to raise children in this nightmare of a country, knowing that an angry teenager can easily get ahold of a weapon capable of wreaking this kind of carnage on them at school, at the grocery store, at church…anywhere, really, and that a significant portion of our population values the right to unfettered access to these weapons over our children’s lives? Where those same people think that what children need to be protected from is learning that racism and queer people exist, not the fact that anyone can acquire weaponry that can slaughter them in an instant? How?

Yesterday on our drive to her violin lesson, my daughter asked me why someone would shoot a class of 4th graders (you know, HER grade). Not an easy conversation to have while driving. And sweet child, there’s no good reason in the world for it and I’m just so sorry it’s the world you’re growing up in. So we talked about how incredibly sad and senseless it is, and how stupid it is that angry teenage boys think that killing a bunch of people is a way to deal with their feelings, and how stupid it is that our country makes it so easy for them to get guns…it really is all just so stupid…and we talked about the things her school and her teachers do to help keep the students safe. I *wanted* to be able to promise it wouldn’t happen here, but I know I can’t say that honestly, especially with this coming so quickly on the heels of what happened next door in Buffalo. What a world we’ve made. How do we unmake this?

I’m just feeling so exhausted and unmoored recently, and I know that so much of it is is grief; grieving the loss of two cats, and the loss of hope for a future worthy of the child I am raising. And it’s burnout, too, after two full years of teaching in pandemic conditions, especially when I feel like I’m being gaslit by my employers’ insistence that last year was “back to normal”. No, it was not. I’m also trying to decide whether to travel up to Wisconsin to visit my family, which we haven’t done since Summer 2019, and it’s so hard to think about what feels ok, now that we’ve given up on mutual care and I cannot expect anyone else to be masking in airports or on planes. Can my daughter and I manage a flight in those circumstances? And what would we do if we did catch COVID on our way to visit? Dealing with what might be a nasty breakthrough infection while wildly “out of network” could get very ugly, but at the same time, there’s no way to know whether next year will be even worse. In fact, other than the fact that my daughter was unvaccinated last summer (because they hadn’t approved one for her age group), it would have been far safer for us to travel then – rates were lower, and masks were still required on planes. I just feel like I’m swirling around in a sea of awfulness and I’m too exhausted to make any more hard decisions, but that’s the only kind of decision there is right now.

Bunny Odile, hanging out in my overalls pocket
Bunny Odile fits nicely in my overalls pocket.

So I just keep knitting this tiny adorable bunny, and I switch to a sock when my brain isn’t in a place where I can handle following bunny-directions. I keep learning new music to play with people I adore (including my kid – we’re going to be playing a duet next weekend at church!) and I keep gradually working towards getting some clothes ready to sew and I keep reading about linguistic justice and disability justice and thinking about what I’m already doing to center those things in my pedagogy and what more I can do. Just keep swimming, right? Do the next right thing.

1 thought on “What a week, what a world.”

  1. My heart truly goes out to all y’all down there. I truly do not understand the mentality that allows this sort of things to just keep happening — but what’s maybe even more frustrating is that I know the majority of Americans also don’t really understand that mentality but you’re stuck with the consequences of it. So my heart goes out to you.

    Along similar lines of “do the next right thing,” someone else I know takes back some semblance of a feeling of empowerment by thinking about what she’d like to be able to do for all people affected by senseless tragedy over which she has no control, and does that thing for one or a few people. It doesn’t fix the world, but it can help fix one person’s world. So I share that with you, in case it helps at all.

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