Each day in my new life is so full. The day ends in an unexpected place, always far from where it began. The only consistency is the remarkable inconsistency of each hour.
When I picked my son up from the nanny this evening, I drove past the park and took a moment to marvel in the glorious fall weather. My first thought was that I should take advantage of the weather by taking Jack out for a quick playground jaunt before dinner. This is my favorite season in Capitol Hill and I hate to miss a moment I could spend outdoors. And then fear took over. Will I enjoy being out on the playground alone as a single parent? Will taking Jack out only cause me to remember every fall afternoon TC and Jack and I met at the park after he walked home from the metro? Suddenly I was flooded by memories. Exactly two years ago I was a very pregnant woman, walking my dog to the park several times a day, waiting for my husband to get home from work, and day dreaming about the baby I would soon meet. That snippet of time before Jack arrived is preserved in my mind as the most magical, happily anxious period of my life. Time stood still. The world around us faded. TC and I made our quiet, joyful entrance into parenting.
Hours earlier I sat in the front row of the courtroom as I endured the longest period of silence one can imagine. We had been waiting for at least an hour already before two of the three young men arrested for TC’s assault were brought in handcuffed, escorted by US Marshals. During that hour of waiting many members of the press respectfully introduced themselves, handed me business cards, and then stared me down, trying to gauge my emotional response as I waited to initiate my own stare down. Now I was sitting six feet away from these boys, who stood anxious and vulnerable as their attorneys met briefly outside the courtroom. Separating us was a two foot high barrier and a palpable, loaded silence. The young man standing closest to me turned around and glanced at my family several times. I met his glances with intense and direct eye contact each time and I wondered why he continued to look back when he was well aware of the expression with which he was going to be met. The other young man never turned to look. Instead he took these long minutes of silence to look at the ceiling and fold his hands in prayer. It took every ounce of self-control not to bitterly groan. Prayers? Now? Where were these prayers, these conversations with God, when you were detained in jail for 4 hours on the morning of August 18th while my husband lay dying on a stranger’s porch? Where were these prayers when you were hitting him in the face with a BB gun and knocking him unconscious with a baseball bat? Was that not a good opportunity to chat with God?
I was surprised by my anger today as I sat in front of two children and watched them squirm during the legal process. My anger did not consist of rage, but rather frustration – frustration at having to listen to facts that don’t align with my own experience of what took place over the past two months, and frustration that our justice system is clearly not intimidating enough to prevent young people from making the type of devastating choices they too often make. When you simultaneously play the role of wife, mother, and teacher, you often adopt one of these roles more forcefully depending on the situation. Today I felt like a mother, a mother who wanted to give these boys a hard smack on the face and scold them for their complete lack of appreciation for human life. They didn’t just take away our life as we knew it. They took away their own futures. What a stupid, senseless, and incomprehensible decision. It makes my head spin.
For someone who used to spend all day on her feet, talking and teaching and raising a toddler, I was exhausted today by the task of just sitting. It took several hours before I could gather my thoughts and reactions to what took place and I certainly didn’t want to do any of this mental processing on camera. Besides taking in the experience of facing TC’s attackers, I am also processing and learning a lot about the entire criminal justice system. I never imagined myself sitting in a courtroom discussing a violent crime against my family. I used to Google my husband’s name and come up with NY Times references to his renewable energy work. Now all I get are citations that include the words “brutal” and “assault” – two words no person would ever want associated with his or her life.
Although there is much that I cannot discuss about the investigation and the judicial process, I am told to expect a long route. This is unsurprising in many ways and I am reassured by the fact that the people responsible will remain locked up throughout the process. Of all the concerns and priorities in my life at the moment, this trial is nowhere near the top. If it becomes extensive and time consuming, it will not be something I participate in on a daily basis. I will not give these young men anything more than I already have, whether that be my time, my energy, or my emotions. TC is focused on coming home and making a full recovery and I intend to take his lead.
And maybe, if I muster enough courage and strength, I will find my way back to the playground to celebrate some moments of joy from a new period in my life – a quiet time for Jack and I to bond together, strengthen our love, and prepare ourselves for TC’s homecoming.