I don't know the people who live in The White House up the street. We have exchanged "hellos" and smiles when they are outside and I am out walking with the kids. I know their neighbors well and sometimes hear stories about the White House. My kids have trick-or-treated at The White House, and when it was for sale we walked through it, quickly decided it was too small and spent the rest of the time allotted for our viewing looking at the beautiful garden.
Last week there were police cars at The White House. They were there to tell the White House that the adult son who had visited the house so often was dead: car accident in a far away state.
I walked by The White House today on my way home from the park. The sun was out, the kids were cackling and running in that out-of-control, may-fall-and-split-my head-open at any moment way down the street. My world was rolling along as always and the world inside that house is, I imagine, stopped. In The White House now lives a mother who will never see her son again. Is she still working out logistics? Making "arrangements"? Does she have family to comfort her?
I bellowed at my kids to "STOP!!" running and when I caught up to them I grabbed them both up in my arms and hugged them, admonishing them to watch where they were running so they didn't fall. It was 4pm. By 4:25 I was yelling at them to STOP bothering each other, keep their hands to themselves and quit asking me questions. The Mother in the White House still had a dead son.
It's getting close to bedtime as I type and the kids are upstairs putting on their jammies. Soon I will kiss them goodnight and given them spells and stories and come back downstairs to sleep the night, mother to the only two children I have ever called mine.
And The Mother in the White House will still have a dead son.
Maybe in six months or a year or three years she will be able to again feel the sun on her face, or enjoy the beauty that she has created in her back yard. I hope she will just as I hope, fiercely and silently, because to say such a thing out loud feels dangerous, to never have to walk in her shoes. I hope there is something I can do to keep my children safe, now and always. I hope they are as lucky as I am to survive adolescence, to survive driving after one too many beers, to survive not quite as safe as it should be sex, to survive riding on top of busses in Asia. What can I do to ensure their luck? Which parenting book can I read to guarantee that my children will bury me, and not me them?
The Mother in the White House could be me, I could be her. Each time I walk by her house I feel that truth and it is feels cold, and shivering and pulling my family close to me warms me but not everywhere - not in the deepest reaches of my heart.