I haven’t written much lately. Last month we moved from our home of nine years to a new house located almost exactly thirty minutes drive from our first place. It’s not far, but it’s a whole different world over here.
It’s funny when you leave a place you’ve loved, or hated; and both. Right? Relief mixed with laughter and sadness and bittersweet memories. In my mind love and hate are intrinsically linked. Both are feelings so passionate, and seemingly beyond our control.
But is love a choice or an emotion?
Though I am tempted, I will not explore that question here.
I’ve never moved with kids before (and I don’t recommend it). My kids are young (7 and 4) and they won’t have terribly vivid memories of this transition, but for my husband and me it has been a very big deal. One, in fact, that is still evolving as we continue to break down boxes, place books in the giveaway or keep pile (SO MANY BOOKS), and quietly realize that a particular blouse or jacket or scarf is one never to be worn again.
Our former, first and only house was built in the early 1920’s in Portland, Oregon. It was smallish, a two-bedroom, one-bath bungalow on a busy street in an excellent location. Urban. Creative. Dark purple. The house had useful and quirky things like built-in cabinets and closets. A few demographics: Our neighborhood was evolving and relatively diverse in ethnicity and socioeconomic status (SES). My son’s primary school was 63% White. He had fantastic kindergarten and Grade 1 teachers. His friends were a blend of funny, serious, kind and smart boys. The school does a tremendous job in recognizing and appreciating differences and diversity.
My son’s new primary school is 83% White and I can’t comment on SES yet. It is more well-resourced than his former school, though so far it is just the same in the best ways – we receive gentle smiles and welcomes from the teachers and staff; the parents are involved and active in activities beyond reading and math. We will see how the year goes, and we are happy to be here. There is a great deal to do and consider.
Our new place was constructed in the mid 1970’s (in fact, the year I was born). There are no stairs, which in itself makes it feel weird. And I guess people in the 70s didn’t need many closets. The neighborhood is quiet and woodsy. We can hear crickets. Crickets! The boys run out on the patio to listen at sunset, and my eyes shine with secret joy and thoughts of my childhood home, a place where crickets sang for me for many years.
The layout between living and kitchen and dining space is lovely and comfortable. And we just bought some beautiful new furniture. I am a proud owner of a spectacular dining room table today. And BENCHES. I can’t wait to host our next Thanksgiving dinner (and make my guests share their gratitudes – ha!).
It pretty much sucked.
However, the MOVING IN part is okay. Sure, we’ve had to have plumbers out on two occasions already, and had a near miss with a catastrophic sewer repair situation. And we need to rebuild a fence and rip up some carpets and build a shed. Did I mention we had no Internet access for fourteen days? And there are a lot of spiders out here in the woods? I’m not scared of spiders, but my four-year-old is now waking up in the middle of the night.
Our treasured photos are on now the walls. We tuck our boys into their own bedrooms (super awesome for the oldest, rather traumatic for the youngest). The dog has a special corner of his own in which he can rest. There are two towering Doug firs on the property (really big Christmas trees), and we can be at the river bank in less than a ten minute walk (a kayak fund has been established for both kids, in case you’re interested in contributing). We are settling in nicely, and I had to explain recently how Santa would know how to find us.
And, best thing ever, we have two bathrooms!
So why does everyone insist on using mine?
As a result of the sale and purchase of two homes in two months, I’ve barely kept up with what’s happening beyond my personal walls (both perceived and real). But it’s a habit for me to briefly check the New York Times, Huffington Post, Washington Post, and CNN to absorb the headlines and click on what’s compelling a couple of times a day.
So today I learned another American man took up a gun and killed his own daughter and six grandkids. While I’ve been focused on my family… attending back to school night, meeting teachers and getting to know neighbors and moms and dads of the boys’ new friends….noting when and how often trash and recycling are picked up, cooking on a gas range instead of electric, dusting off my running shoes to venture out in on a path unknown…well, someone (s) out there either plotted his family’s deaths, or more likely, ended his own life and theirs due to untreated mental illness and stress.
I’m speculating here, of course. As the investigation into this particular horrible event takes place, however, I’d be surprised if mental illness and/or domestic violence wasn’t at the heart of the tragedy.
Um, doesn’t this sound all too familiar?
And here we go again, gun-control advocates vs gun-loving, Second Amendment Right-touting fanatics.
The record player keeps skipping, gets stuck and repeating one groove over and over.
A three-month old was killed today. And an eleven-year-old. And four other kids.
I won’t link up to the many brief news articles about this tragedy today. There’s little information to be gleaned from the official record.
As I consider the ways in which my family and I have dealt with the stress of moving… of new schools and places and spaces… of strangers and work and libraries and stores… I know that I am okay. I have strategies to deal with my anger and my sorrow.
This man did not have strategies.
He could not or would not — we don’t know — apply strategies that would help him deal with himself, his reality, his surroundings.
I don’t know what was going on in his world.
I do know that he had access to firearms, both legal and illegal according to the reports, and that police had been called to his family home on more than occasion.
As a society we are responsible for keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people like criminals and the mentally ill (I know that most mentally ill people are not dangerous).
Gun advocates claim that “Federal law requires that individuals seeking to buy a gun at a licensed dealer pass a background check to prevent criminals, domestic abusers, the seriously mentally ill, and other dangerous people from purchasing firearms.”
This is true. Thank goodness.
However, anyone who wants to may approach a “private seller” at gun shows, on the Internet, and elsewhere to buy guns with no background check, no questions asked.
This article released in May 2014 says that just days after new polling showed an overwhelming bipartisan majority of Americans continue to support expanding background checks, new FBI data released by Everytown for Gun Safety shows the number of mental health records in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) has tripled in less than three years.
This is good. But. It’s a work in progress, and it only works if people are actually required to have a background check before they take home a gun.
I am definitely not an expert on guns or gun control. I have family members and dear friends who own guns. I have no issue with ethical hunting. My boys think guns are great. They are very aware that I do not.
My takeaway, and this is not something that I came up with on my own, is that instead of focusing on making it harder for the mentally ill (and criminals, I guess) to acquire guns, we should be making it harder to get guns, period. For everyone.
I am grateful for my family. My heart breaks for the six children, their mother and yes, the man who took their lives and his own.
My record player is on repeat as I quietly lift a prayer to my angel sister:
Liz, six more kids. Six. One is just a babe, a babe like the one that you never got to have. Welcome them, hermanita. Give them the biggest welcome ever. Love you.
Here are some links that were helpful to me think this through. Thanks for reading.
Comments by Obama after Shootings in Portland, Oregon (my most recently departed hometown)
(and finally, a pro-gun argument) note that I do not agree with many of this author’s statements; but this one I like: “I believe we need a general shift in our attitude toward public violence—wherein everyone begins to assume some responsibility for containing it. This makes sense to me. Both gun advocates and gun-control advocates might come to consensus on this point.