Many of you probably spent the weekend as I did. Not shopping and singing and baking, but crying and hugging and listening to the news in an “I-don’t-want-to-but-I-can’t-help-it” kind of way. I tried to shield my children from my own sadness and from any details of the horrible tragedy that occurred on Friday in Newtown, CT.
I didn’t want to talk to them about lockdown drills and gunmen and unthinkable sadness. The time may come for that. Today they’ll return to the real world and their own school classrooms, where whispers and rumors will fly surely as they do among adults. I won’t be able to keep them in the bubble for long.
But for the past two days, I pulled them close and bubbled up. Fighting my own heavy heart and deepest fears, I reached for books, those stalwart companions in times of anxiety.
EACH KINDNESS by Jacqueline Woodson is a beautiful, lyrical picture book that tells the simple story of the ripple effect of kindness, and what happens when kindnesses are left undone. Although they are “too old” for picture books, I “forced” my kids to let me read this one aloud. We can’t change events of the past, but focusing on what good we might do in the future was at least, for a moment, something that made me feel less useless.
I also read for my own sanity, to escape. And when I got halfway through SEE YOU AT HARRY’S by Jo Knowles I realized I had chosen the exact wrong escape hatch. (If you have read this book you probably just said, “Oh no! You read that to escape reality?”).
SEE YOU AT HARRY’S is a moving, incredibly well-written middle grade novel, told from the point of view of 12-year-old Fern. Saying anything else here would spoil its power for you as a reader. But I will tell you that as I read on, and on, and on, unable to put the book down, I realized that while it didn’t provide the lift that a “light romantic comedy” might have, it actually was quite possibly the most helpful book I could have chosen to read this weekend.
On the book jacket, you’ll find comments such as “soul-sustaining,” and “a big booming beacon of [hope],” and “rich in…the gentle hope that grows from the heartbreak of tragedy.” When you are ready, I encourage you to read it and be strengthened.
As we face the days ahead, I’ll be looking for and clinging to signs of gentle hope. May we all find the strength to push down fear and lift up kindness.