My life has been encompassed by death.
Two weeks before I was born, my great-grandfather passed away in an unusual spring heat-wave. He had eagerly anticipated the birth of his second great-granddaughter. While my family held a happy barbecue, my great-grandfather suffered a major stroke and passed away. When I arrived, I broke a dark time in my family and infused a sad family with untold joy. That’s what my mom always told me, anyway. My parents died within five years of each other, starting with my mom when I was 27. I'm kind of used to death. I am not, however, used to tragedy.
When I woke up Friday, I was in my usual rush. At 43 and being a single mother, my mornings are often hectic. Even though my manager and boss were out of town, I still knew I had plenty to do at work. I turned on the television in my living room at 6:40 and heard something about a “Colorado tragedy” but I just didn’t have time to learn just what that was. I fed my daughter her blueberry-wheat waffle as I hustled myself to the bathroom to finish doing my “face” and blow-drying my unruly hair. It wasn’t until I had placed my daughter in her car seat at 7:01 that I really paid attention to the news: a lone gunman had killed 12 innocent people and injured numerous others during the midnight showing of the final movie of the latest Batman trilogy.
As I drove to work, I tuned into the local talk radio channel I listen to all the time, WBAL. As the reports of this “Batman Movie Tragedy” filed in, I braced myself. I would glance at my perfect little daughter, babbling joyfully in the backseat of our car. She was holding a tiny plastic figurine of Elmo, her favorite Sesame Street character. She would laugh and smile as she looked at herself in the mirror. As I paid further attention to the news, I found myself crying.
Dropping my daughter off at daycare was actually good. Since finding my daughter’s current daycare provider, I have never felt more self-assured and safe that she is in the right place. Her daycare “mom” is a kind, loving person who is doing the job she was always meant to be. She cares not only for my child but the others in her care as if they were her own. My daughter always lights up to see her, as do the other children she watches. This wasn’t the case at the last daycare my daughter attended. But on Friday, I left my daughter with a sense of comfort. It was something that many parents in Colorado would not be able to feel.
Once at work, I tried to get started. I am usually pretty good about leaving out the day’s tragic news, but this sad story felt so…personal. I love movies. I ADORE Batman. I grew up reading only three comic books: Wonder Woman, Superman and of course, Batman. My father, though well into his 30s at the time, was a staunch lover of all things Super Hero. My older sister wasn’t much for reading and my two younger brothers were hit or miss. So my father counted on me to be his super-hero friend. And after he finished each episode, I was bestowed with the gift of his comic left-overs. I devoured each issue with vigor and happily recounted their stories with my father. We got each other. From his love of Johnny Cash to his questions about the origins of Aquaman, we enjoyed many discussions, including our super-hero friends, like Batman.
Going back to Friday. I should have spent more time making calls for work. That is my JOB, after all, making calls. I bring in new business and much of what I do is basic telemarketing. But I’ve been suffering from a bad sinus infection since my last cold two weeks ago. Last week, I spent a lot of time clearing my throat, blowing my nose and trying to avoid losing my voice. Since I still felt like crap, I found myself giving a little too much time to the news outlets on Friday on the Internet. And finally, it struck me. This tragic event happened at a Century theater. And the national tragedy that had already hurt me felt even closer to home.
In 1977, the United States had just enjoyed our second 100 years as a country the year prior and was eagerly awaiting ONE THING: the premiere of a cool space movie called “Star Wars.” I was all of eight-years-old and already a sci-fi fan thanks to my dad. My father, for his part, was friends with a lot of people, including the owner of the Century theater on State Street in Salt Lake City thanks to his job at the Salt Lake Tribune. No, my father wasn’t a reporter or editor, he was the director of distribution and had delivered papers to the front of the theater until his horrible amputation in 1972. He lost his leg while riding his motorcycle, but not his friends/connections. The owner of the theater allowed about 100 of his friends and families to be the first to see the movie Star Wars a day ahead of its release. We were in that lucky group.
When I heard about the tragic shooting in Colorado, I was immediately a judging bitch. Why was a four-month-old and a six-year-old even allowed to attend? What were their “horrible” parents thinking? Then I remembered my age at that Star Wars premiere. I realized that not only did I have NO right to judge, but how easily it could have been my family, so nearly 35 years ago.
So, as I’ve given my daughter extra cuddles and kisses this weekend, I’ve also remembered the human experience of taking your children to movies you KNOW will mean something later. Seeing the strong female character of Princess Leia is forever a part of my life, just as much as Wonder Woman or even Murphy Brown (not a sci-fi or comic book character for those who ask). I am grateful to my parents who probably should have waited to take us for a matinee but who made sure we were well-rested and full of sugary goodness for a film they were dying to see. And I am so very sad for the good people who attended that film opening in Aurora, Colorado, this past week who wanted to bring the same magic to their lives and their kids and found themselves caught up in a madman’s fantasy of carnage and violence.
I am not afraid to take my daughter to a movie I or she is almost dying to see, but I will not forget the events or people from this tragedy. Movies are magic. They are a way of sharing things with people that you love in a way that you, the common person, may not be able to convey. This should never be lost because of the actions of one horrible person who has their own agenda to carry out. After all, most movies do have a happy ending. I hope this event forces all of us to seek our happy endings. The victims of this crime deserve it. And so do all of us.