When I was a kid, the days between Christmas and returning to school in the New Year were pretty idyllic. The house that we lived in was old, drafty — a historic Cape set on a hill in rural Connecticut with cast-iron radiators and fireplaces for heat.
One of the windows in my bedroom was original to the house. The glass, uneven from being formed into panes, created a slightly distorted view. In the summer I would see a wobbled landscape of Queen Anne’s lace and black-eyed Susans waving in the field below.
On winter mornings, that window had a layer of frost on the inside. Wrapped in a sleep-warmed quilt, I liked to scratch my finger through the icy frost. “SUSAN,” I would write, or “DJ” — the family nickname for my twin brother.
Early on, my brothers and I discovered a winter vacation routine that worked for us. If it worked, why change it? During that two weeks of kid bliss between Santa and SCHOOL AGAIN? DJ and I would haul our skates across the field of dormant wildflowers to a frozen creek and skate on the bumpy ice. We would sled, or stomp giant pictures into the snow.
We stayed outside until our cheeks felt like they would crack. Back inside, we would fight for the good seat on the sofa by the fire and read or watch TV. Mostly we would drive our mom nutty with requests for activities.
“When are we…?”
Basically, a lot like what my kids are going through this winter break. Only now, I’m playing the role of nutty mom.
As I’m breaking up squabbles over television remotes, and wondering what on earth possessed me to bring more Legos into our house, I’m thinking backward and forward.
Back to my childhood in Connecticut. Back to my twin brother. Back to all the years when we had our own kid-set winter break routine.
And I’m thinking forward. What will my children remember when they are the nutty parents?
But I’m thinking of something else that colored this holiday different than all the others: The images forever burned into our collective memories of 26 faces. Twenty of them that look a lot like my own 7-year-old. Six more faces that look a lot like the women in my children’s schools.
One image overrides all the others for me: Noah Pozner. Noah. I have a son with that same name. A son whom I’ve been watching sleep and whom I’ve been staring at when he’s awake. I’m trying to memorize the details of his face and then hugging him — once for me and once for the parents who can’t hug their kids anymore.
I’m drawn to imagining what life will be like for Noah Pozner’s twin sister, Arielle. I know firsthand the unique relationship between a twin sister and the brother that shares her timeline — shares her memories. It hurts to imagine a life that had him taken away in the days before DJ and I could cross the field to ice-skate; before years of shared books and fights over the good spot on the couch.
I’m trying to scratch all their names into the window in my once-again altered heart. I don’t want to forget them.
I don’t have answers, I don’t think just one issue, one change in the way we do things will stop another senseless act like this one from shattering lives like old glass. But I do know this: What we are doing isn’t working. We have to change it.
When are we…?
For more of Susan Vollenweider’s writing, go to thehistorychicks.com.