I can’t stop thinking about bombs. Precisely because I’ve never heard or seen or worried about a bomb in real life. I’ve watched them in movies and on the news, dreamed of them at times in freaky nightmares, but never once actually for a moment worried that I or my family or my friends or my colleagues or even my enemies would ever see, hear, smell or fear an actual, real-life bomb.
Now, I know I’m out of practice with blogging, but I’ve read enough lately to know that at this point, I need to warn you: this post contains graphic images and triggering language. Read on with care.
Last week, my heart was ripped open and social media was set on fire by an image of five-year-old Omran Daqneesh, a Syrian casualty of an air strike, sitting in an ambulance with his tiny face numb from shock. I ached to hold him close, and sing to him, and tell him over and over that “It’s OK, darling. It’s OK.” I walked around with every nerve ending in my being acutely aware that my little son could have been this bloodied boy, but for the fate of a birthright no more earned than bestowed, no more requested than given, no more deserved than granted by amazing grace.
Tonight, I came home from work on a gorgeous late-summer day, and picked up my two-year-old son, whose deepest “trial” these days is being at daycare past the 8-hour-mark. I showered him with love and kisses, delighted in his stories and loud recountings of a busy day of play and silliness, scooped him up and buckled him into a secure car seat, then fed him a healthy snack and gave him a drink of filtered water while driving him to another safe, secure location–our local library. Not a single bomb.
There we played at the train table, checked out a few books, picked up the latest in his sister’s chapter book series, and leisurely and patiently checked out books not once, but twice, so he could make the computer beep. Not a single bomb.
We got home and ate dinner, and not a single bomb.We fussed at the kids to eat, we silently (and I do mean silently, lest we give ourselves away) cheered when they tasted their homemade fish tacos with veggies, and then my heroic husband hurried them out the door for a wagon ride to go visit a neighbor, on a civic mission of volunteerism and good will. On a peaceful street, where the clearest danger is a car going 29 mph. Not a single bomb.
I, too, volunteered–to bask in a silent, empty kitchen; just me, the dishes, and a Pandora station based on Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.” I danced around the kitchen, the music far too loud for a suburban Monday night, the dishes not dirty enough for my dancing and singing and simple freedom from actual pain or fear or concern. I stopped in my own serenade long enough to realize, really breathe in, absorb and yet not-at-all-grasp the fact that there is a very slim chance of a bomb tonight.
My family came home–loud, tired, halfway-hyper and running on weeknight fumes. We shepherded the kids toward bed, and not a single bomb.
Then we folded laundry. The bleach white load, the one that mixes crisp sheets with tiny socks and lace-trimmed capri leggings, the one that worries me about whether the stains will come clean. Not a single bomb, and I spend my time worrying if the stains will come clean. This time, they did. My heroic husband was sorting the laundry and one tiny white sock slipped through his finger and landed in his full glass of red wine. One white sock, forever red. We laughed.
But then I remembered this article, the one about the seven images that DIDN’T go viral after Omran’s picture swept across our safe little screens. This article, which shows more children victimized by bombing and civil war and fear and injuries. It shows one little girl (named “Syria’s Cinderella”) and her single white sock, soaked red with blood from her injuries. I looked at our wine-soaked sock and I just broke apart at the kitchen table.
I don’t know the details of the war in Syria. I don’t know the half of it, I’m sure. I avoid the headlines from the Middle East and instead I worry about things that really do threaten my own family and our wellbeing–stress, processed food, harmful chemicals, UV rays, pollution. And then something like this happens, and breaks through my befuddled upper-class cloud of luxurious worries, and I have to stop.
I am a mother. I am a writer, a truth-teller, a seer. And I can’t stop saying what I see. What I see tonight is that, if you can feed your family and dance around your kitchen without a single bomb interrupting your little show, you have already lived a lifetime of love and luxury and leisure. You have already “made it.” You have already known the most amazing bliss there is to know, and you, like me, have probably missed it, worrying about the made-up stress and endless to-do list with which we distract ourselves from what is happening–really happening–to children just like ours around the world.
If this is a sermon, it’s directed at me. “Pay attention,” it begs me. “Look around.” “Breathe in another day–and night–without a bomb.”