The reality is worse today than yesterday. There was so much of yesterday where we were waiting for details. There were so many media mistakes. At one point, I clicked to NY times, CNN, Huff post, CBS, ABC, NBC and our local paper and had as many reports of the damage. I chose to believe that everything was being exaggerated and that there were no children gone.
I was wrong.
We went through our day. There was a trip to a big box to pick up Christmas cards, though I don’t know when I’ll get them sent out. I waited in line for cheap gas. I waded through a bin of boat totes at the LALA Bean outlet, imagining ourselves with the abandoned names. I’m not sure why that was fun, but it was. She talked me into nuggets on the way home. I was going to say no, but why not. Why not.
I have a long list of things to get completed this week before leaving for California. There are cards and cookies and two already procrastinated articles to write. I need to balance my budget at work and hire a work-study. I have to figure out what to do with a burnt out light in my kitchen (It’s one of those fluorescent tubes and will probably cost half of a year’s salary to replace, if I can even figure out how to replace it, but who needs light in one’s kitchen?) There are unwrapped gifts, unpacked suitcases, trips that must be made to various places to resolve various problems. Selam’s hair is uneven, and I cut my own bangs, crookedly.
But I spent my day making progress on none of these things. After our small excursion, I came home. I made batter for cookies, but I couldn’t stir up the energy to bake them. I stirred soup in the crock pot. I watched kids TV with Selam. We played an elaborate game about being a new girl in town. Between everything, the news. The news, the news, the news. First freaking grade. Six and seven.
Selam’s only question today was whether or not Santa Claus knew. Because, she explained, if he didn’t and brought toys to their houses, it would make their parents cry. Would he be able, she wondered, to find them in heaven?
I put her in the bath after dinner. Last week, I found a bath toy that had been lurking under the bathroom sink. I threw it back in the tub, and when she submerged it, she discovered that it squirted. She squirted it-hard-at the wall, and thick chunks of black goo came out and landed on the white tile.
I raced to wipe them away, took the toy and began scrubbing it. I have no idea where or when we got this toy–a little green dinosaur. I submerged it in a sink of water, and poured bleach inside. I poked a toothpick in the dinosaur mouth and scraped the inside. I took scissors and snipped a small hole in the green tail and poked toothpicks in that end. I poured clorox directly into the mouth, directly into the tail. I kept digging and digging and digging at that toy.
Behind me, Selam played with the other toys, the ones that don’t have mold lurking inside. I could have turned to watch her. I should have turned to watch her, but I obsessed. I held the plastic up to the light to see where the dark mold hid, in front paws and back. I scrubbed until I could feel the burn in my forearms. I didn’t realize it, but I started to cry. Selam told me. She asked what was wrong.
“Oh, nothing. It’s the bleach.”
It wasn’t the bleach. I scraped and scraped until I could tell her it was clean, until I could present it to her, this small green dinosaur, free of mold, scraped by her mother. Behind me a dozen toothpicks and a bottle of bleach lay, spent.
It’s all I have to offer you, child. It’s all I can control. I have this scrubbed out toy, and these advent candles and this unwavering wish that I could really, really promise that nothing bad will ever happen to you, and know that I could truly make it so with elbow grease, determination, prayer and all the love my heart can hold.