The Wilds of Connecticut

There is a place in Newtown called Ferris Acres Creamery, a working dairy farm that serves unbelievable ice cream. There’s no counter at the Creamery, no indoor serving area, just a couple windows where high school kids take your order for Moose Tracks or Elvis’s Dream or, my son’s favorite, vanilla with rainbow sprinkles. In summer, the parking lot is always filled with SUVs and minivans and motorcycles, people coming ] to sit outside in the warm weather, look at the cows, roll down the grassy hill, and eat ice cream with their neighbors.

Last night people gathered in Newtown for a different reason. Like millions of others, I watched portions of the service from St. Rose of Lima, a Roman Catholic church just down the road from the Starbucks. The faces I saw on television are faces I know, faces we all know, faces we have seen so many times over the years. In my case, though, never so close to home.

When the reports first came in yesterday, I was at home, ten miles from Sandy Hook Elementary. I called my wife downstairs to tell her what was going on, and while we were both startled, the initial information was that shots had been fired and that somebody had been transported to the hospital with a foot injury. And then we were told it was going to get a lot worse. How much worse we could not have imagined. Not here.

Emails started arriving from our school district. Classes would be dismissed as usual. Police were arriving at all the schools. No, they hadn’t informed the little ones what happened. They enclosed some tips for how to talk to the kids when they get home.

When the bus finally came, I met my daughter at the driveway. “How was school?” I asked. “Good,” she said. When we got in the house, I gave her a big hug and told her I love her. “Your breath stinks,” she said. That was fine by me.

After my son got home an hour later, I hugged him too and told him I loved him. “Whatever,” he said. And that was fine, too.

We sat the kids down and told them what happened. Something bad. People had been killed, including children. You guys are safe, though. Do you have any questions? No. Okay. We love you. We’ll always love you. Yes, you can play videogames.

For dinner, we had our Friday night regular: pizza. We played Uno. We sat by the fire.

Before she went to bed, my daughter asked my wife if it had been especially windy outside today. “I don’t think so,” my wife said, “Why do you ask?”

“Oh, because it looked really nice out but the teachers said there was a storm so we couldn’t have outdoor recess.”

My wife and I held each other for a long time in bed this morning and after a while, our daughter got in bed with us, too.

It’s a bright, sunny day here in the wilds of Connecticut where I live, a perfect December day. That’s what I call it when people ask me where I live - “the wilds of Connecticut” - because Connecticut, while rural, is a manicured wilderness. The gravest danger any of us normally face is hitting a deer while driving.

The Creamery is closed today. The churches are open.