Grace wandered into my office this morning as I again watched the memorial video my team created this year to honor the colleagues we lost during the attacks on the Twin Towers.
She stood silently by my side for a few seconds, then shifted her eyes to their corners to catch a glimpse of my reaction to what was playing on the screen. As always, when it comes to any media related to this day, they were rimmed with tears. Tears teetering on the edge, threatening to make their journey down my face. She flicked her eyes back to my laptop, and put her left hand softly on my shoulder. Gavin then wandered in, and stood behind us. He crept closer as pictures of those lost and the resulting memorials flashed on my screen, and rested his chin on my head. When the video finished, Gavin sighed sadly and walked out silently. Grace looked at me and said, “Oh. It’s September 11th today.” I nodded to confirm the date and stood up as I gently encouraged her to finish the morning routine.
I sat with her as she ate breakfast…taking care of a few things on my personal laptop at the same time. She said, “I forgot it was September 11th. I guess we’ll talk about it at school. I remember a lot about it, but I still don’t understand why it happened.” Neither do I, baby, neither do I. I gave her a brief overview of the day’s events, and pulled up a few facts so she could read through ahead of the expected discussion in class. It’s a bit – and by bit, I mean ever so slightly – easier now that they are older. They are a bit more wise, and have started learning history, so they are aware that, well, atrocious, inexplicable things sometimes happen. A little bit of innocence traded for a little bit of knowledge. Nothing’s truly free, it seems.
She then said, “Where were you? At your office in New York?” Thankfully, no, I didn’t start this particular job until 10 months later, and I was working in Philadelphia. But I can tell you exactly what I was doing. My eyes grew hot and tears threatened to return as I remembered exactly what I was doing that morning. She stared at me intently. She really doesn’t miss a trick. As she grows, I am realizing it’s so important that I handle my emotions properly and take care as I shepherd her through things that cause an emotional reaction for me so she has her own experience, not a version of my experience. I decided to be honest and more vulnerable than I typically allow myself to be in front of her and said, “You know what, sweetie? This is hard for mommy to talk about without crying. And sometimes, when things are hard for Mommy to talk about like that, I prefer to write them down. That helps me express myself better. I wrote about where I was that day – do you want to see it?” Her hands were already pulling my laptop away from me as she nodded her head. I chuckled and told her to give me a minute to pull up the links of a few things I’ve jotted down over the years as I grappled with marking this occasion appropriately as a young family.
She ate the rest of her breakfast while reading, occasionally grimacing or nodding ‘mmmhmm’, but mostly just reading. My phone rang a few minutes later, so I had to take a call while she finished up and went to brush her teeth.
On the way out the front door together, she unexpectedly slipped her little hand in mine and squeezed tight as she said, “That made me so sad. I am really sorry that happened. I still don’t know why anyone would do things like that.” I squeezed back and assured her that neither do I. Neither do I.
Remembering all those loved and lost. Xx.
Here are the posts I shared with Grace today: