One week after an unusual bout of steady rain for several days, the plants were wild with growth. The radish leaves hung over the sidewalk, begging to be cut and pickled into kimchi. The red lettuce was plenty for salads and wraps. The kale and chard were robust, and the mint quickly took over its part of the land. I was most surprised though that they seemed to grow exponentially at night- without sun and without any human help.
I sit cross-legged on the floor of our bedroom. Empty boxes wait to be filled, and letters and cards from years past are strewn around me in a semi-circle. It’s the best and worst part of packing for our move. They beckon me to slow down from the rush of productive work and indulge myself on a stroll down memory lane. I linger longer while looking over old Christmas cards of friends and their families and marvel at the progression of families over time- couples becoming families, families becoming fuller. As if watching a short film of each of them, the memories behind their smiling faces flash through my mind- the moments of pure and profound joy and the aches that darkened days and months. We had loved, celebrated, grieved, and cherished one another, and I sigh with contentment and heartache as I put the cards into a box and tape it closed.
It’s been a year since that moment on the floor. I haven’t touched the boxes since putting them in storage, but with the holidays around the corner, I can feel the familiar ache coming back. It’s a deep, pressing pain in my gut for something that once was and something that isn’t yet, something I’ve gotten glimpses of but haven’t experienced the fullness of yet. It’s a longing for home.
The ache comes back with the holidays because holidays are for gathering, for throwing parties, for opening our doors and arms wide for the lonely, the hungry, and the hurting. The holidays are for inviting them into our homes and being home to the ones who are far from theirs or who have never experienced its warmth before. The holidays are about love, about remembering, dreaming, longing, and about hope. The ache reminds me to pay attention. Each Christmas card, each gathering, meal, conversation, and act of kindness contain the potential to have home feel tangible once more.
Like a kid eagerly anticipating gifts under the tree, I can’t wait to hear the thud of envelopes being dropped into our mailbox in the weeks to come. I can’t wait to hold everyone’s beautiful cards and display them where I can see them throughout the day. When friends and family are scattered around the country and the world, being all together is impossible. But this time of the year is the one time they can all be here with me and my family and I with them- even if it’s just through a photo on a card.
How do I write about the mass shooting that happened in our beloved city, the worst one our country has yet to experience? How do I put words to the anger, confusion, grief, and disconnect I felt? Even those words miss the mark.
Monday was the same as every other Monday, except it wasn’t. I yell at the the kids to hurry up and get in the car so we can make it to school on time, but on our way I carefully tell them what happened. I tell them a man hurt a lot of people, that some of them died, and they respond in pure childlikeness: “That wasn’t nice.”
No, sweet babies, it wasn’t.
I force myself to read the articles, to take in the numbers of deaths, of those injured. Like a mother, I want to put my arms around Las Vegas- the place we called home- and hold it while it cries, to protect it from the good intentions of those who mean well but who don’t know it like we do, who haven’t lived there and love it like we do. For once I don’t have the capacity to keep scrolling, so I close my computer and walk away from my desk…