I wake without the alarm and lie in bed. The cat climbs over me saying it's time for food. I ignore her. It is warm beneath the blankets and I have no pressing demands on me this morning. The cat goes away disappointed while I doze in and out of the lightest sleep. I hear our younger daughter rise and use the bathroom. She is up in time to eat breakfast and get ready to go. Both girls are due at temple where they facilitate Hebrew school. I get up and go downstairs.
The dishwasher waits to be unloaded and a few dirty dishes soak in the sink. I open the blinds and check the kettle for water. I light the gas burner and suppress a shudder. I grind coffee while the kettle ticks then hisses as it moves to a boil. Opening the dishwasher and pulling down the towel, I put away plates three at a time and take silverware to the drawer by the handful. The dishwasher empty, I wash the dishes in the sink, dry them, and wipe the counter. The kettle is aboil and I shut off the gas. Before making coffee, I unplug my phone and check mail. Nothing there. I tap the icon for The New York Times, see the headlines from last night, and turn it off as my younger daughter appears in the kitchen to fix her breakfast. Good morning, I say, clear and strong, because I love you would seem an odd, too intense way to begin the day. I'm hoping Good morning has enough love wrapped in it. When she says a quiet, still sleepy, normal Sunday good morning, I react in the usual way but feel out of the ordinary in so many ways.
I pour near-boiling water over coffee grounds in a plastic press and plunge it through to my usual mug. I empty the grounds into the garbage, wash the press, and carry the mug toward the living room, stopping at the the den to ask my daughter if she thinks her older sister is awake. She shrugs, not having checked on her. She's willing to be her sister's keeper, but wary of waking the bear. I carry my coffee to the living room desk and go check if my girl is awake.
She is not. The dog who sleeps in her room rises with tail beating the morning air, happy as ever to see that although I disappeared for her in the night I've magically come back to her again this morning. The dog sleeps in our older daughter's room to protect her from the suspicions she has always held about entering the kingdom of sleep, but I know there are few things from which the dog or I can protect her. I softly call her name, squeeze her calf through the blanket, tell her the time, and say you should probably get up. She opens her eyes and sits up rubbing them just as she did long ago in the crib. Quietly I say, good morning, hoping again that it communicates what I really need to tell her. I give her leg a squeeze meant to show that I will protect her though I know she is of the age when she must do most of that for herself. I go back downstairs to find the car key she will need to drive herself and her sister to the temple.
At my desk I sip the coffee which is as strong as I always make it. The furnace comes to life and again I shudder, torn between savoring its warmth on a cold October Sunday and the disturbing thought of more burning gas. I take the usual three sheets of paper from my folio, uncap the fountain pen with which I almost always write, and begin describing this ordinary Sunday morning, a day of worship for some, for teaching many of the children, and for sipping coffee while writing. For some however it is yet another day of fear and hatred for others in a world they believe should belong only to them.
Yesterday in Pittsburgh, a fraction of a man shot and killed at least eleven people who were together in a temple of worship. That synagogue is now a crime scene and the site of tragedy I wish was unimaginable but is instead an ordinary fact of American life. I imagine the temple is surrounded by police and other law enforcement when it would ordinarily be filled with children and caregivers.
Last night our Rabbi emailed the congregation that there will be additional security in place at our temple this morning. I appreciate that but such actions, while warranted and responsible, are largely symbolic window dressing in a nation that celebrates guns and winning more than life and safety. No amount of armed protection can really protect any of us and I know that guns beget guns, violence, and the ordinary tragedy of dead children followed by the hollow thoughts and prayers of politicians too afraid to do anything meaningful about it.
Yesterday an even smaller fraction of a man than the gunman stood behind the Seal of the President of the United States and claimed that more armed guards are the only thing that can keep the innocent safe. He implied that any notions of gun control are ridiculous and then whipped a crowd into a frenzy with hateful vitriol against anyone who looks, believes, or identifies differently than they do. He told them that people are coming to steal and destroy their way of living. It was his ordinary speech and included his usual argument that anyone who disagrees with him or points to the facts is a liar and enemy who should be put down with force.
It's an ordinary Sunday in America the day after another shooting that will be dealt with less as tragedy and more as our way of life, ordinary as making coffee and worrying that my children will be shot dead before noon, before I can tell them in the least ordinary tone that I love them beyond any love I ever thought I could feel.