When I was eight years old, my mom made a terrible mistake. She put my Tooth Fairy money out before I had fallen asleep.
I wasn't completely shocked. I had harbored suspicions for a few months that maybe, just maybe, it wasn't a winged fairy with a dental fetish who was leaving me those quarters. My mother only confirmed what my heart already knew. That confirmation was devastating.
I laid in my bed and sobbed. I remember my parents coming in the dark, asking why I was crying. I couldn't verbalize it. I just cried.
I knew that something had changed.
Something had started to change when my Siamese cat Friskey had been run over by a car the summer before. More racking sobs in the dark. And now this - there was no Tooth Fairy. There was no magic. I was so sad, so suddenly different, and so jealous for the child I had been.
My childhood was gone. My innocence had been stolen from me.
This past Friday, December 14, my daughter Maggie woke up and she was seven. She requested and was served strawberry ice cream for breakfast. She unwrapped a giant stuffed giraffe. As I drove her to school, she asked what time I would be bringing the cupcakes to her first grade class. She was ebullient in the backseat of our car, surrounded by her siblings who love her. "This is the best day of my YIFE!" she exclaimed.
She still can't say her Ls.
Strawberry ice cream, stuffed animals, and the promise of pink cupcakes account for the best day of her life.
Her worst day? Probably that time when Netflix wouldn't play My Little Pony. Yes. That was quite traumatic for her. She sobbed and sobbed.
My seven year old is innocent. She is utterly unaware of the majority of evil in the world. She knows that death exists, but she can't quite comprehend it. She's never experienced it. She's never witnessed anything more violent than her brother stepping on a snail.
Less than two hours after I dropped her off at school, on the best day of her life, in another town, twenty of her fellow first graders were murdered.
All weekend long, like every other mother in America, I have held my child just a little bit longer. I've told her I loved her more times than usual. I've inhaled the still babyish scent of her hair. I've marveled at how soft her hands are, how tiny and perfect her naked body is as she hops into the bath. I've stared at her, studied her, appreciated things about her that before December 14, I had foolishly taken for granted.
I've thought too many times about how much it would hurt to lose her. About how long my body would rack with sobs in the dark.
But I've thought just as many times about how much it would hurt to keep her, had she survived. About how it would affect her to watch her beloved Mrs. Davis die. About what kind of Maggie she would become if Sydney and Noah and both Averys were taken from her, if she peeked out of the cracks of a cupboard as her seven year old eyes and her seven year old heart absorbed and were transformed by the unimaginable.
I've thought about the other children of Sandy Hook, the ones who were not shot. About how those children, too, have died. They are no longer who they were, and they never will be. They are different now. All of the children dropped off on Friday morning are gone forever.
Their childhood is over. Their innocence has been stolen from them.
There is a darkness that hovers over our country and our hearts that seems palpable. But amazingly it is still invisible to my first grader. Also to her sister and brothers. They didn't notice when each of their teachers stared at her classroom door today and wondered what if. They believed me tonight when I blamed my own tears on the onions I was cutting for their dinner.
They seem to have made it through this Monday, the Monday after, without this particular lesson in evil. My children are still innocent, for now. My children are still children.
I am so very glad.
And oh, as my sobs rack in the dark, I am so very jealous.