Ten years ago, I was the mother of one, working on my second novel. A friend called me about the news. When I said, “hello,” she said, “Have you heard?” I knew it was bad. The TV shots replayed the towers going down and I wondered if this was the beginning of the end of the world as I knew it. I wandered down the street, looking for my husband and my daughter. He’d gone to pick her up from pre-school and I needed them with me because I have the magic umbrella. It’s invisible, but I hold it over my loved ones when they’re with me and it protects them. Such is my irrational belief.
But this is the really important part of my story, something I didn’t know then. I had no idea. But here it is: my younger daughter was 11 days old. She was waiting for us in a Chinese orphange. There were many babies there, waiting.
The world didn’t end in 2001, though tragedy hurt many people, not only in the U.S. but in countries where retribution took many lives. Life was happening, it’s still happening, and we can choose how to grieve, with ferocity or with compassion. We can choose where to rest our eyes, on the gaps or on what grows in them.
My younger daughter’s hair is down to the middle of her back. She’s been growing it to donate to children with cancer–her idea. My older daughter reads the newspaper online every day. Someday they will have their own magic umbrellas.