Twenty years ago I was on the receiving end of an armed home invasion at the home of an acquaintance I never should have made. It ended with a group of us lying on the floor, our noses in a smelly mustard and gold shag carpet as we wondered if our assailants were about to leave us or leave us dead. When they were gone, we began cycling through all of the stages of grief until the police came and an emergency locksmith could make new keys for our cars, allowing us to escape back to our old lives. What I didn’t realize in that first hour was that my old life was over forever.
It wasn’t a great life before the robbery, but it was not a life lived in fear (or caution, but that’s another story). I had lived in ‘bad’ neighborhoods before the incident and no part of the city really frightened me. After the incident I was afraid to go anywhere, and when I had to be in public places or unsecured locations, I made every effort to be invisible. I watched doors. I sized up people. Fear embalmed me.
It took years and a lot of love from the Big Guy to crack that sarcophagus. However, even now, when an incident like the one in Newtown, CT is reported, I realize, part of my soul will always be wrapped in those bandages (as I suspect the survivors of this and other senseless massacres will be). I felt it yesterday as we sat at our son’s basketball practice and every opening of the door knotted my stomach a bit more. I know this sensation – it’s part of the new old normal that began twenty years ago.
We had already planned a weekend of holiday activities with just the four of us, and, wanting to avoid the glare of the malls, we opted for a visit to the Vermont Country Store in Weston. We did our weekly breakfast at Bob’s Diner in Manchester and headed up the Bromley mountain on the way to Weston. For the two of us, the gloriously cold and sunny day seemed out of joint with what has been in our hearts since Friday morning.
In the back seat Thing1 and Thing2 were already beginning their road trip antics that I swear are designed to grow grey hair on my head. The Big Guy reprimanded them as the volume reached earthquake level, but as we switched on the radio and all of us marveled at the passing mountainous landscape we’ve seen a hundred times before, I reminded myself that this, too, is part of my New Normal. Right now, it is enough.