Saturday, December 22, 2012

FOR THE HOLIDAY BLOG TOUR: Christmas Carols in Old Town Pasadena & the Children of Newtown

I stand beside a 30-foot tall Christmas tree, a genuine spruce sparkling with large, clear bulbs in the center of One Colorado Plaza in Old Town Pasadena, California. The night is chill, but the hundred or so bundled parents and children filling the square are in high spirits, boosted by the dozens of elementary school children singing Christmas carols for them on the makeshift stage.

It’s an idyllic sight, one symbolically and geographically removed by more than 2,000 miles from the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. While the heart-breaking grieving and burying go on in Newtown, Pasadena is aglow tonight with our local pride, with the family closeness and joy that this annual event embodies. On the stage are fourth, fifth, and sixth-graders from Pasadena Christian School, fresh-faced angels that, in this holiday season more than ever, hold the promise and dreams of all of us standing under colored lights and in the shadow of the mammoth tree.

My granddaughter Lizzie is onstage, first row, far right. She’s a natural, and she smiles and be-bops at the right moments, makes hand and arm movements on cue, eyes glued on the choral director. Her little heart and soul are completely in this, this musical gift to us, the audience, the community that loves and supports these children more than we love ourselves.

I doubt that I’m the only one thinking of how all Sandy Hook parents could have had this type of night tonight, rubbing shoulders with neighbors under holiday garlands, beaming at their little boys and girls, celebrating underneath a velvet sky infinite in its tallness, stars gleaming and dancing above spires and treetops of the village. All Sandy Hook parents should be holding their children in their arms tonight, bundling them home, plying them with hot chocolate or cider before tucking them in bed with fairy tales, prayers, and kisses.

I tilt my head back and look long and hard at the big sky, big blackness. In fifteen minutes, Lizzie will come bounding down the stairs of the makeshift stage and head for me. I’ll hold her coat and ease her slender arms into it, then wrap the snowman scarf around her neck and chest. I’ll slide on her fuzzy gloves, hold tightly onto her hand, and hurry across the plaza into the warmth of Johnny Rockets for a snack and conversation. Little rituals, little pleasantries that are so second-nature to the two of us, we can’t imagine not doing these things, not embracing her or kissing her on the forehead when she reaches me in the audience. We hardly think of these.

But we must. The wrenching lessons from Sandy Hook will reverberate for generations. We as a society have so much to learn in this 21st century, where we’re theoretically so advanced, yet we aren’t. And the clearest lesson is the one embodied here in Old Town Pasadena tonight: Our greatest treasures, the golden legacies of earth, are children—all children. We start with our own and realize how no moment with them deserves to be taken for granted. We remind ourselves that our children need us at our best each day. We consider how nothing is guaranteed in life, how none of us has a lease that is honored. Life is cut short without notice. In two minutes, 20  Sandy Hook children perished. Two minutes! Let’s fill each minute of our children’s lives with love, reassurance, and nurturance.

Ancient sages supposedly predicted our world would end on December 21, 2012. How ironic in a month celebrating the most famous birth of all! The Sandy Hook deaths have very likely stirred a rebirth in our collective consciousness regarding the frailty and majesty of our children. May this Christmas be most memorable for this: That we commit ourselves to putting children first—all children—in our priorities. This would not be the end of the world, but the beginning of a much better one.

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  1. Thanks for sharing this heartwarming post, Thelma. I'll share it on Twitter and FB.

    Happy holidays to you and yours!

  2. Very nice. Let's remember that children come in all ages. I know my mom still sees me as her child and I am 42 years old. As a teacher, this tragedy leaves me crying a little bit every day. I don't know who or what I am grieving for the most. There's a sadness that I feel will return again because as much talk as we do, it's our actions that need to speak right now. Thank you for the post.

  3. Thank you, Mayra, Zoraida, and Audaciouslady: I appreciate your stopping by and leaving a comment. May this New Year be filled with good health, peace, serenity, and much success to each of you! Take care.