It was mourning weather - dreary, drizzly, gray - as Dave and I drove home from New Palz. We had not wanted to drive through Newtown. We’d planned to get off I-84 at Bethel, but the cars slowed as we neared that exit. The traffic was backed up well onto the highway. “I think there’s another exit before Newtown, right?” I said. Dave agreed so we continued on.
The exit sign came into view, white letters on a green background. “Newtown.” Silence. Dave reached for my hand, signaled right and turned the wheel.
We had stolen a quick trip to the Mohonk Mountain House, just one night at the reduced pre-holiday mid-week rate. We’d not gone last year due to my father’s illness, but Dave and I view this trip to the Victorian hotel in the mountains as our Christmas tradition, our present to each other.
So, early Sunday, we left the house. We’d avoided watching the news, reading the papers, or listening to the radio. Shields up. As is our custom, we stopped for lunch at the Main Street Bistro in New Palz. The place bustled with kids in dreadlocks, woolen caps, and bulky knitted ponchos, and the menu featured homemade soups, five veggie burger options, frittatas, and several tofu selections. We both ordered veggie burgers – the Hendrix for me, the Peacemaker for Dave.
Seated at the counter, we chatted with a young bearded guy - originally from a farm in Nebraska, now at college in DC - who was in New Palz for some vacation hiking in the Shawangunk mountains. He was intrigued by Dave’s burger, so Dave offered him a bite. He accepted…and finished off my pureed pepper soup as well. It was easy and companionable and I liked thinking of him returning to his parents on the farm with warm impressions of this encounter with the couple from Connecticut, who lived in the town next to Newtown. Most people are good. They are.
After lunch, Dave and I visited a few of the quirky shops on Main Street and picked up some stocking gifts – Christmas rings, hacky sacks, funky finger-less mittens. And then I caught myself…feeling normal, cheery even. How could I?
So I shifted gears, sobered up, and thought about Tucker and Casey at six. About Christmas presents waiting in closets. About how, if it were me, I would delve into the laundry hamper to find and hold and rock the pajamas worn the night before Friday….Thursday night. Just a regular night.
And I tried to send out loving white light to those lost and their loved ones. (Does it reach them somehow? How could this happen? Why would someone kill little kids?)
We’d left Mohonk after breakfast and wound up in Newtown center around 11:00. Rain fell on black-clad mourners waiting outside the funeral home. A man walked with a small boy, one hand firmly on the child’s shoulder. Couples stood on the sidewalk embracing or hand-in-hand. Across the street, a battalion of photographers strained for a shot, jostling and adjusting prodigious lenses for a solid zoom. Network vans lined the road in front of the general store.
But we also passed shrines of bouquets, stuffed animals, and luminaries lovingly arranged. And signs. Many hand-painted signs. Perhaps from people, like me, like any of us, whose wounded hearts yearn to give comfort even when comfort is beyond giving. So what do we do? Send white light. Pray. Write on a sheet draped between two posts our wish to enfold these grieving souls, “Newtown – we are all one family.”