Last Wednesday, halfway through that terrible week, I took my son and his friend hiking. I needed to be outside, to disconnect from the news, to work my muscles and remind myself that this grief, although it felt as though it had landed on my doorstep, didn’t belong to me.
Because it feels as if it does. It feels as if these tragedies that keep happening, keep popping up on the internet, are just a breath away from those that I love. Boston especially — I’ve walked down that street, I know people who were at the Marathon, friends of friends were injured. The muscles of my heart feel as if they’ve been working too hard these days, as if they’re damaged. I understand the definition of heartsick.
Today I went back to the hill where I hike. I went alone, but it was raining and cold, not weather for cheering up. So I stopped in at the preschool at the base of the hill, where my children went to school, and I sat on the floor and I watched the teachers. I watched as they mediated an argument between two children who wanted to play with the same toy. I watched as they explained, over and over and over again, why the blocks couldn’t be stacked past a certain point. The teachers wiped noses. They passed out snacks. They praised the children when they used kind words, and reminded them of those words when they didn’t. They did all these things with patience and grace, in the hopes of making the world a better place one small child at a time.
There was a sign at the door when I came in, a reminder to parents that the school is a safe place for little ones, as much as any place can be these days. It was a reminder for me, as well.
So here’s what I have for you this week. My family is going through a retro phase for our weekend movie nights. We’ve been watching Leave It To Beaver, a few episodes every time. I thought my children might find it hokey, but they’re fascinated by the trouble Wally and Beaver find themselves in. And despite the stereotypes on the show, there’s something comforting about a world where parental authority and confidence is so absolute, where no one ever gets hurt and adults know the right answer to every question.
In last week’s episode, Beaver and Wally had a run in with Lumpy, a mean bully of a boy. Beaver and Wally try to thwart him, to no avail. At the end of the episode, Beaver asks his dad: “So you just can’t beat a guy like Lumpy?”
“Sure you can, Beaver,” the father replies. “Sure you can. You beat him simply by not being like him.”
On this rainy day, it helps to remember that.