14 Jun On Joy, #2: An Open Letter to My Son After Orlando

Dear Roo,

Something terrible happened yesterday. You know that already because you saw me crying: I cried while we picked up litter in the park, while we washed and dried the dishes, while we played. I told you I was sad because a man made unsafe, unkind choices, that he was upset for reasons we don’t really understand; that he went and hurt a lot of people. “Oh,” you said, softly. “Again?” And I cried some more because this shouldn’t have to be a story I keep telling; this shouldn’t be a story you already know.

“I will keep you safe,” I said. “We are safe here together.” It didn’t feel true, and I don’t think you believed me: all day you yelled and stomped your feet and threw your body on the ground over small things, the way you do now when the concerns of big people feel overwhelming. We had a hard time, you and I.

But then, at dinner, you asked the same question you always ask: “What was your favorite part of the day, Mommy?” This is our ritual, but I couldn’t think of one; today I felt so lost that I couldn’t remember anything at all but the terrible things a man did far away to people we couldn’t help, but only pray for. Instead of answering I asked you back: “What was YOUR favorite part of the day?”

“This,” you said. “This is my favorite part. Having dinner with you and eating this pesto tortellini. It’s good!” And you laughed and laughed, delight tumbling out of you, just because the tortellini was so good.

You are teaching me this: that joy is quieter than I thought, and nearer at hand. That it is always with us, even in hard times, even for just a moment, and sometimes it looks like this: a good meal, together, in a quiet house, far from those who wish our family ill. I hope we have it every night forever. I hope every family does.


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