The grains beyond age

By Beck

Yesterday started off oddly, with me waking up to a silent computer. “What will I do now?” I thought, and then set about my day – getting all of us off to school (I was volunteering for the morning, The Baby crabbing alongside me, sorting and counting the supplies for the school’s breakfast club. It’s a poor area and many kids need something extra in the morning.), running to a kind friend’s house later to quickly use her computer and then visit at my leisure, returning home to wash the floor and polish the woodwork and then bake some cookies with The Baby, who was in a good mood FOR ONCE.

Later, The Baby and I hauled an old orange check tablecloth outside and ate cookies while lounging in our yard, the newly-appeared leaves a hazy soft green against a clear skyblue sky, and the yard full of the brazen cheerfulness of dandelions. We went back inside, into our house smelling of lavender and beeswax, The Baby’s hands full of yellow tulips sharp against her pink dress and my heart felt full of gold, a sudden unfurling after months of misery.

And then the ringing black phone was my husband, telling me in a grim voice that arrests had been made in the disappearance of an Ontario child, arrests made for her murder.

One thing that I am reserved about is the tendency online for the deaths of children to become these public outpourings of grief by people who did not know the children at all – even virtually – while living. I think it springs often from a natural kindliness, a maternal love of children and a natural horror that any mother should have their child taken from their arms, and of course I share in that. But there is also – and I can only speak for me here, but I don’t think I’m that rare – an aspect of warding off cruel fate, too, that if I am publicly grief-stricken enough, I will keep some dark thing from my own doorstep.

And so as I cried yesterday, grieving over the death of a child I did not know, who was I crying for?

Was I crying for an unknown child, made suddenly dear to me by the grievous horror of her death?

Was I crying for my own children, so close in age to that poor little girl and the dangerous world they must live in?

Or was I crying for myself, for my own vulnerable mother’s heart, and for my knowledge that since I have children, I can never again be easy in this world?

It is another bright, cloudless day here. Yesterday’s tulips are still brightly yellow and upright in their vase, the morning sunlight falling about my house like a promise of joy, a promise of languorous, carefree summer days to come. But within me, within my dark maternal veins, a knowledge of something else whispers its┬ábleak words, and yesterday’s golden happiness seems suddenly like fairy gold, a fragile pretending.

Is a fragile pretending all we can ever really have?

My Baby – not a baby at all, but still sweet – is dancing across the living room, dancing in the sunbeams in the window. The happiness I feel at watching her feels like a physical thing, something I could pick up and jar away for some cold winter to be opened as needed, the nourishing, uncomplicated joy that is, of course, the other side of the coin. This world is at once hard and terrible and beautiful and lovely and fragile and we live in it with our pretendings and our brief empathy and then run out again into the sunny day like we will have an endless number of them, stretching before us forever and ever.

Beck blogs at Frog And Toad Are Still Friends.

23 Responses to The grains beyond age
  1. Mad
    May 21, 2009 | 11:10 am

    Ya. This sums up so poetically my reaction to the news yesterday. Now, I hope the media will leave the family alone to grieve.

  2. LoriD
    May 21, 2009 | 12:20 pm

    What Mad said. It’s all at once heartbreaking, maddening and terrifying. I’m eternally grateful that it isn’t my family trying to come to grips with such an unthinkable fate, but also painfully aware that none of us are immune.

  3. carrien (she laughs at the days)
    May 21, 2009 | 12:33 pm

    And then there is the other side still. That we know how full of pain life can be is what makes the golden moments all the more precious, and us the more determined to fully be present as they occur. They are over so quickly, even if there are no tragedies to end them, that it seems a waste to spend them worrying about what might be.

    Something I try to be really conscious of as a parent is to not raise my kids with fragile illusions. People die, so do animals, death is a part of life. I don’t think this knowledge takes away happiness, I think it allows them to treasure what happiness they have. For it is possible to soak up the beauty in the days that are given to us while knowing that not all days will be beautiful.

  4. melissa
    May 21, 2009 | 1:03 pm

    you were crying for both. my husband told me a gruesome story yesterday of a woman at his work, leaving the nightshift beaten brutally then taken away and raped. the beating was caught on tape and when they viewed it they saw other people walking past, telling no one and i cried for that woman all alone in the parking lot surrounded by people with no heart.

  5. Stephanie
    May 21, 2009 | 3:20 pm

    I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to wrap my mind or heart around it. Wonderful post, despite how painful it was for you to write, Beck.


  6. kgirl
    May 21, 2009 | 3:24 pm

    I truly believe that one mother’s loss is every mother’s pain. Not that it takes the place of, dampens or alleviates a greiving mother’s shattered heart.

    But we do put ourselves there, at least momentarily, and that is why we are gutted. And it may temporarily allow us reprieve from the knowledge that the world can be scary, even while we acknowledge the very fact. Lightening can’t possibly strike twice, right?

  7. becky
    May 21, 2009 | 3:49 pm

    I imagine this WAS a hard thing to write about. These are the things that keep me up at night, and force me to say no to certain movies and books and even to often refuse to watch the news. A little ignorance keeps me joyful for a little longer.

    I’m sad for all of you up there, grieving for that family. Some of the world is harsh and mean. And some of it just delightful. May you have much of the latter for today, Beck.

  8. Don Mills Diva
    May 21, 2009 | 3:57 pm

    Beautiful, Beck, just beautiful.

    So heartbreakingly beautiful.

  9. Painted Maypole
    May 21, 2009 | 4:36 pm

    running out into the sunny day is the only way to keep going, I think, after we’ve had our good cry.

  10. Painted Maypole
    May 21, 2009 | 4:40 pm

    (today in the us there’s news of a mother who killed her son and buried him in a shallow grave in a playground in New Mexico. which is what I thought this was about at first. but it’s not)

  11. bea
    May 21, 2009 | 5:10 pm

    I felt nothing but relief last night when I heard the news – but I guess that’s because I have not had any hope for awhile now that she was alive, and I’m just grateful that the parents are finally being let out of this dismal three-ring media circus.

  12. Shellie
    May 22, 2009 | 12:16 am

    It’s amazing how life can be so horrible and so beautiful, the ugly and the joyful juxtaposed together side by side in time and space. I cry for the parents left behind and the horrible last moments of the child. Whether I knew them at all or not, they’re human.

  13. Aliki
    May 22, 2009 | 6:38 am

    Grim, but beautiful, beck–your post, and life.

  14. Jo
    May 22, 2009 | 8:46 am

    Beautiful, insightful post. I think we do cry for our “own vulnerable mother’s heart”. We have no trouble imagining the horror and loss b/c we know it could be us, it could be ours. And hopefully, in knowing how fragile life (and its happiness) is, we soak it in a bit more deeply and live it a bit more mindfully.

  15. Nowheymama
    May 22, 2009 | 9:45 am

    Well said.

    Also, I…never polish the woodwork. Perhaps I should look into that.

  16. tracey
    May 22, 2009 | 10:09 am

    But without the knowledge that it is all so fragile, could we ever really enjoy the world as fully as you described?

    I hate the horrors, and can’t ever release them from my mind, but they only make me relish the miracles and beauty more.

    Bad things WILL happen. They are inevitable. It is the nature of our world and the fabric of which we are made. I agree that we must cry for the hurt children, the grieving parents and the possibilities that we will be in that position some day. But then we must move on, into the sunshine. It’s such a waste of life if we don’t…

  17. Karen Edmisten
    May 22, 2009 | 12:33 pm

    Beck, So, so beautiful and true.

  18. Susan (5 Minutes for Mom)
    May 24, 2009 | 1:42 am

    I am saddened by these same thoughts, but I could never have expressed them so poetically.

    I think I am tormented more than the average person about the cruelty of the world. With my tendency towards anxiety and depression I have to guard my thoughts or I’ll end up paralyzed in fear.

  19. Karen MEG
    May 27, 2009 | 2:23 pm

    What a beautiful post, Beck, and I imagine difficult to write. My heart fell when I heard the news, but then it had been so long that I couldn’t help but fear the worst.

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