Last night Mac woke-up screaming at 12 AM. This wasn't his usual I'm tired/I'm thirsty/Elmo is in the wrong spot/you're too far away from me cry. There are some molars making an appearance. He was screaming out in pain and I couldn't soothe him. And while I hated seeing him so distraught I wasn't disappointed to have an excuse to bring him into the living room and rock him as I did many nights in those early hours of parenthood. After the events that unfolded in Connecticut yesterday morning I was unable to hold him close enough. He cried and writhed in my arms but eventually gave in to The Sandman's persistent calling. I knew that he had nodded off when his head felt heavy against my chest. I'll never understand how a sleeping baby suddenly weighs more than he did while awake. There had been an emotional weight on my chest all day. Somehow the physical weight of his body seemed to counteract that emotional heaviness. His sweet baby lips curled into a round pucker. His heart rate slowed to fall in sync with mine. I held him and I cried.
I brushed my son's hair off his forehead hoping to sprinkle enough sleeping dust to calm his nerves and decorate his dreams. But I was left with none for myself. The Mama in me needed to stay awake and measure his breathing. In and out. In and out. Still alive.
I should have counted sheep. Or baby breaths. Instead I turned my iPhone on and pulled up Twitter. Words of love and sympathy and grief were sewn together in 140 character groupings. A bouquet of regret and anger and mourning for the families who were living a nightmare. But every so often, amongst the sadly beautiful flowers, vicious thorns poked through. Let's remember, read one tweet, guns by themselves rarely commit crimes. Another suggested, I wish sarcastically, maybe if teachers were allowed to carry guns they could have protected them. And still more rallied around key words like freedom and rights and the 2nd Amendment.
Freedom has become an ideal with a definition too complex to articulate. We throw it around like a hacky-sack - don't let it fall - never let it fall. Nobody needs to explain it. We all know it. Or we will when we see it. And more acutely when it's missing. The lack of freedom feels jarring. We can point to it. It's right there. The lack of freedom to marry. The lack of freedom to control one's reproductive choices. And today the potential for the lack of freedom to bear arms in America. One bad apple spoiling it for the bunch. And they forget the other 61 cases of bad apples over the last twelve years.
I wish Twitter allowed for screaming. I want to respond by shaking the writers of these statuses. I want to make them come face to face with the reality of 20 dead children. Twenty.dead.children. Responding with ALL CAPS won't do the trick. They won't get it.
I hope for freedom too. I believe in a parent's right to send her child to school without fear that she may not return. I will rally for freedom from the fear of guns in the hands of the wrong people. Because without safety nobody is free.
Warm baby breaths settle on my neck like a blanket. Nighttime minutes tick by slowly. Slow for me. Slower for the families in Connecticut. The families whose freedoms have been violated in ways the rest of us will never understand.
It's time to understand that yes, actually, guns do kill people.