Teddy is scared of the basement. I totally get this. I was always scared of the basement. It’s where spiders and monsters and murderers lurk. The basements of my youth were unfinished spaces. In one house, Dad put up a makeshift curtain divider to separate his workbench and tools and things-in-storage from the area we were allowed to rollerskate and jump on old mattresses, chalk foursquare courts onto the concrete floor and make forts with moving boxes. Occasionally one of us would be sent to retrieve an item from Beyond the Curtain: a space that wasn’t illuminated by the light switch, but instead required wild grasping in the dark until a grateful hand met with the pull cord of a naked bulb. That moment before contact with the blessed string was probably the height of scary for me as a kid. But now Teddy, my funny, imaginative little 8 year old, won’t go down to the basement alone because… well… maybe we should sweep it for bombs first.
I think we all feel like we just finished explaining Newtown to our children. And now, there’s another bad guy… and he’s still out there… and he knows how to make and hide bombs. (And if the good guys can’t find him, maybe he’s hiding in the basement.) Our church, our schools, and everyone on Facebook tell us to look for the helpers. Brodie and Teddy saw their dad suit up in scrubs, throw on a white coat, drive closer to bombs, and enter hospitals armed with guns (to keep the bad guys out, or keep them in?). They might be proud that Daddy is a “helper,” but more than usual, they want to know when he’s coming home.
“So this is probably the second worst day of my life?” Teddy wondered at dinner on Monday night. Because “that time the guy killed all of those kids was the worst.” This was followed by a discussion of how 9/11 would trump even these, but they weren’t born yet. Jesus. When I was 8, I’m sure I couldn’t name a single murderous event that didn’t involve a fictitious, deranged goalie, much less three acts of belief-shaking violence. Those things lurking Beyond the Curtain of my youth were unnamable, fantasy, and just on the cusp of exhilarating (if it weren’t for the more tangible and real threat of spiders). The fears of my children are spun from things on TV in the afternoon.
Later, there was this: “Should we have a moment of silence?” asked my 9 year old. Brodie, whether he knows it or not, looks for answers (or solace) in Prayer. Reluctant to sob in front of my little guys, I deflected that with “who wants ice cream?” I’m not ready for a Moment of Silence. Here’s the loneliest thought: there will be no answers to the why Why WHY of it all in even the most momentous of silences. And until they catch the bad guys, I’m still too distracted and scared to pray to anyone… but what many of us feel (regardless of your brand of spiritual cracker) is that we’re praying for each other.
Here in Boston, familiar sights are outlined with yellow tape and there’s nothing else but this on TV. Here in the Lee household, Daddy is a helper but there might be bombs in the basement. We’re all grasping for that cord in the dark, and finding… each other. Although we’re sad, there is great love amongst us. (See: countless acts of kindness, frantic Facebook queries and assurances, The Yankees, and Chicago.) We’re not defeated! But right now, here in Boston (here at the Lee’s), we have no explanations to alleviate the basement fears of an 8 year old boy. An 8 year old boy. An 8 year old boy.
Thinking of Martin… always thinking of Martin.