Saturday April 27, 2013

I had woken before my daughter. A rarity, but to be expected after a fitful night's sleep filled with anxiety. Shootings at a Boston area college, officer down, suspect fatally wounded, the other on the run. Morning had seemed unattainable.

A swirl of emotions and exhaustion clouded my brain as I checked my sleeping daughter one last time before heading into the living room. I clicked the power button on the radio. NPR had a special broadcast. "People across Boston and surrounding suburbs have been told to stay indoors amid a massive police manhunt for one of two brothers suspected of carrying out the Boston Marathon bombings...."

I set about my morning routine, listening, thinking. An entire city on lockdown. A 19-year-old child, who may have committed crimes beyond my comprehension, was seriously wounded and on the run. Somewhere a mother had lost both her sons. One to death and one to today's events. A manhunt and ultimately, I predict, a long prison sentence. Both gone to her as soon as they made the decision to attack a city. Meanwhile, my child was safe and asleep in our bed, just like every night since her birth 32 months earlier.

I folded laundry and organized my thoughts. Washed the dishes and tried to soothe my swirling mind. Behind me I heard the distinct and light steps of an awake and smiling girl.

"Hi Momma!"

"Good morning, sweetheart! Hungry?"

NPR droned on while I made my daughter pancakes.


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Speculation flowed from the speakers while I poured maple syrup onto her plate. She thanked me and smiled. Had the grieving mother had these moments, too? My thoughts must have shown on my face or maybe her perception is stronger than I could have imagined. Either way, my daughter looked at me through the steam rising from her breakfast, her big blue eyes sparkling.

"You OK, Momma? What's happening?"

How was I to explain to her, in words she could understand, if I couldn't comprehend a bit of it? What do you say to an innocent child? Her world is so happy, so full of goodness, so full of love. Maybe that was the answer. Maybe her question wasn't so she could have an answer but so I could shift my perspective.

Her world is my world. It is so happy, so full of goodness, so full of love. She is the center of that world and is the shining bright beacon of hope for the future. I sat back for a moment and just watched as she devoured her pancakes. I smiled at her sweetness.

"I am OK, baby. I love you so much."

"I love you too, Momma! I go play now."

And just like that, her question was answered, her world was happy and she was off on another adventure. I picked up her plate and tiny cup and brought them to the sink. Out the kitchen window I could see the many signs of Spring in our yard. Robin's hopped around in search of worms, the giant maple tree was pregnant with tiny new leaf buds. Our grass was making the shift from brown to green and the air was filled with the sounds of children laughing from the nearby schoolyard.

In the background NPR was still reporting. I chose to fill my heart with love and hope. I saw all the signs that we will be OK. We will grow and even thrive. The world is not a bad place, it's just that people do bad things, sometimes. But, in order for them to truly be a force of evil, we must let them win. We must succumb to their fear. I chose to not let them win. I will not live in fear. I will not live in great sadness. I will live in the knowledge that there is hope and love in every corner of this great big world. I see it in my tiny corner every day.

I put the dish towel down and walk into my studio where my daughter is playing. She sees me and smiles.

"Me and Clover [her doll] are making snow angels on the floor for you, Momma!"

And just like that, I am reassured that yes, there is hope and love and goodness even in these difficult and trying times.

"They are beautiful angels, baby."

"You happy, Momma?"

"Yes, baby, I am happy. I love you."

"To the moon and back, right?"

"Right. To the moon and back."

Michelle Stephens is a wife, mom to a toddler, photographer, writer, the most outgoing shy person you will ever meet and a super hero in her head. She blogs at www.JuiceboxConfession.com and is a weekly contributor on www.LiteraryTraces.com Email her at JuiceboxConfession@gmail.com Follow her on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/JuiceboxConfession.