Sunday Reflections: Mapping the Violence in Your Childhood Memories
Wednesday night I was on the phone with my dad making sure my family was okay and when he asked what I was doing I said I was writing a post. He told me to mention him in my post – so this post is for him.
Right before I began the third grade my family moved to Redlands, California. I used to explain where I grew up by telling people that I grew up about 45 minutes from Los Angeles because that was a point of reference most people knew. But on Wednesday everything changed. I grew up in and around San Bernardino, California. That is now a reference point that everyone will know and the reason makes my heart ache. On Wednesday, December 2nd, two shooters took 14 lives and injured several others in the city of San Bernandino, California.
When I was a child, my father worked at the Norton Air Force Base in San Bernardino. My mother did as well. So did the man who eventually became my stepfather. I ate, played and shopped in San Bernardino. I went on dates with The Mr. well before he became The Mr. in San Bernardino.
When I was a child, every Saturday night we went to the Orange Show Speedway. This was not a thing that I necessarily liked, but it is the landscape of my childhood. It is an important part of who I am. It is a childhood memory that I hold dear.
When I was a child, I stood in line outside a San Bernardino theater to see The Empire Strikes Back.
When I was a child, I saw E.T. in the San Bernardino Mall and then asked my parents to go buy me some Reese’s Pieces.
I am no longer a child, but this week I have longed for the simplicity that comes with childlike knowledge. This week I have relived those memories in my mind, but now they are slightly altered. That childhood joy is tinged with colors of grey around the edges.
On Wednesday afternoon I sat at lunch with my Assistant Director trying to iron out some more details of our MakerSpace transition when I picked up my phone and saw the news: there was an active shooter situation in San Bernardino. My heart stopped. There may have been cussing involved.
I texted my dad. I texted my brother. I texted everyone I loved to ask if they were okay.
To be honest, I texted instead of calling because I didn’t know where or what things were going on and I was afraid to call because I didn’t want their phones to ring and call attention to them in case they were in a dangerous situation. Yes, that’s what I thought about I sat in a booth in a Chinese restaurant wondering if my family was safe.
I was thankful that my dad has recently – literally a few months ago – retired from his job in a San Bernardino County office and hoped he was at home safe.
I knew that all of my other family members worked in the SB area, though I didn’t really know where.
Back at work, at the Reference desk, I scoured through the news reports. I printed off a Google map. I marked in yellow highlighter the place where they said the shooting was taking place. I marked my dad’s house on the map. I marked my brother’s. I looked up the schools that my nieces go to. I looked up the university library where my sister in law works. I looked up the location of my stepmother’s work. I marked it all on the map. I used the legend at the bottom and math to try and figure out how far away the shooting was, if my family was safe. They always said those skills would in fact be used in my adult life, but I bet they never imagined it would be trying to determine whether or not my family was a safe enough distance from an active shooter situation in my hometown.
I hopped on Facebook to check the timelines of my friends. Are you safe? I asked. Are your parents safe? I asked. Your sister? Your brother? Your child?
And I did, I prayed. I cried. I raged. I cussed. I worried. And I prayed. I prayed because I am in Ohio, thousands of miles away from my family, friends and childhood home that was being violated and there was nothing of substance I could do in that moment. All I could do was pray. And hope. And beg my family to text me and let me know that they were okay.
One by one I heard from them. Even my brother, who almost never returns a text, replied to let me know that they were all safe. But even then, I couldn’t be at peace. My childhood landscape was being watered with the blood of innocent people and though it may not have been anyone I know, this shooting felt more real. More visceral. More personal.
This was my childhood home. These were my memories being written over with the language of violence. This is the place I return to time and time again to reconnect with the people I love and find my center.
My children and I have driven those streets many times. I take them time and time again to the San Bernardino County Museum and tell them about the time I took a drawing class there and tried to draw a penguin. This is where I went to school, I point. This is where my best friend Natalie lived. This is where your father and I went on our first real date and saw the movie The Cutting Edge. This is where your father asked me to marry him and I said yes . . .
This is where . . .
The horrific things that happened on Wednesday in San Bernardino are not about me. I wasn’t there and I wasn’t directly affected. But I take great offense.
I take great offense that this continues to happen time and time again.
I take great offense because people keep saying that we can’t discuss possible causes, or complications, or even the possibility that we should be having real conversations.
I take great offense because we have forgotten how to talk to one another about important, life changing – no, life taking – things.
I take great offense because I fear our hearts are growing numb to mass shootings.
I take great offense because these are our fellow human beings whose lives are being taken far too often, with far too much ease.
I take great offense because families are left gutted and crying and raging and, more than anything, they are no longer whole. They have lost people that they love. They will never be the same.
So this post is for my dad. It is for my stepmother. It is for my brother. It is for my sister in law. It is for my nieces and my nephews. It is for me. It is for my husband. It is for my children. It is for my friends. It is for all of us who have forever had the landscape of that place we call home changed by violence and death and despair. And fear.
I take offense to the despair.
I take offense to the fear.
My family is okay, but that isn’t something I can celebrate. There is no celebrating here. My family is okay, but many others are not. They will never be again, not really. And to that, I take great offense.
Filed under: Sunday Reflections
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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