Holding them close

By Mir
April 16, 2007

Tonight the kids and I finished reading Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wind in the Door (the sequel to A Wrinkle in Time). In the final chapters, our protagonists are fighting Evil itself. The life of young Charles Wallace hangs in the balance, but so too does the future of all living things, all forces of good and rightness.

The kids snuggled up, one on either side of me, and Chickadee kept interrupting. “I don’t like this,” she would say, “this is scary and I’m afraid Charles Wallace is going to die.”

“Mama!” Monkey would add, “what if this story was REAL?”

I did not—could not—tell them that this morning as they romped around, thrilled that school was closed due to flooding, I had joked to a friend that this weather is surely a sign of the Apocalypse, and what’s next, locusts? Frogs? Pestilence? And then later came the news that had me hunched over my keyboard, trying not to cry, trying not to let on that anything was wrong.

What if it was real? What if evil truly exists and we are set forth to fight it even though we barely understand the tasks at hand? L’Engle just shapes it into a good story. I’m not convinced it’s fiction.

Nights like tonight, my children go to bed with nothing more on their minds than whether I might let them eat banana bread for breakfast and whether school will reopen tomorrow. And I am left to grapple with insomnia and weep for their safety, even though they’re sleeping just down the hall.


  1. meghann

    I know, when I heard the news I was driving and almost had to pull over. Days like these make me want to pack up my kids and move to a deserted island or something. But, running away makes evil the winner. So tomorrow morning, my oldest son will go off to school, and I will be at home, praying.

  2. Susan


    That is all.

  3. becky

    Yes. Makes me wonder if I’m crazy for wanting to bring a child into this scary, messed up world.

  4. Cele

    Very well put.

  5. Overwhelmed!

    As I sit here and type this comment, I’m listening to NBC news broadcasting more details about the tragic shootings. My heart aches.

    I loved the Madeleine L’Engle’s books as a child and I’ve got the set waiting to read them to my son when he gets older.

  6. Heather

    I don’t watch the news; I hadn’t heard. Oh, God. Not a curse but a prayer, and my heart is breaking.

  7. daysgoby


    The winds howling ’round here (I’m Nawtheast of you, I think, so you’ve assumably had the same weather) made me think last night of the first scene in A Wrinkle In Time – Meg, shivering in her big bed at the top of the house, listening to the wind whip and feeling that eveil was near…

  8. MomCat

    My daughter asks, at the ripe, old age of twelve, “Why? Why do people do bad things, Mom?”

    What is the answer? I’ve put together a few, pulled a few out of a book, yet, inside I am screaming, “Why??” right along with her.

    I tremble, knowing she’ll be out there, on her own, in only seven years.

  9. LadyBug Crossing

    We do the best we can and then we send them off. We never think they won’t be coming home…

  10. cce

    I’m just absorbing the VA Tech news as I had no power yesterday. The kids are home on Spring Break and asking for Cheerios and milk and bananas and I’m trying hard to keep them sheltered from this human disaster. No radio, no television for the day so that they may miss this devastating news.

  11. Judy.

    The evil that is present in our world always stuns me anew. Has it always been this evil? I know we are so able to SEE what’s going on these days thanks to TV and the Internet, but I can’t help but feel things are getting worse. It makes my heart break.

  12. Avalon

    My daughter is a college student ( not in Virginia).Her campus is 75 minutes away—door to door. In an event like this, I could make it there in 55 minutes. As I watched the coverage, I wondered….silently to myself….if she would have still been alive when I got there.

  13. Bah

    A lot of us are struggling with the same fears this morning. Thank you for using your web power to discuss it.


  14. Bob

    I don’t know that things are any worse today than they have been at any other time. Today, with instantaneous and never-ending world-wide coverage of an event, each atrocity is in our face like it never has been before. I know that that doesn’t make what happened in Virginia any less of a tragedy. I just can’t dwell on these events or I would be in constant despair. I try, instead, to look for hope for mankind. I prefer to look for the good in the world so that I can have hope for our children.

  15. Amy-Go

    *Group hug*

    I think we all need that.

  16. hollygee

    Is Wind at the Door the one with the ‘singular’ cherubim with all the varied eyes that each blink occasionally? I loved that character. I wanted to see him-her so much.

    There is nothing except time that can comfort when we feel this vulnerable. And all time will do is to allow a protective scar to form over the wound. We are all battle wounded.

  17. Girl con Queso

    Holy cow. You nailed it. I love this book. And what a perfectly disturbing connection. Simply put, but not simple at all.

  18. Woman with Kids

    I love that series, and the movie was pretty well done too. I tell the boys I’m going to put them in a bubble; it’s just so scary out there, that people hurt each other like they do.

    Your post? So well said.

  19. paige

    I work in Blacksburg. I teach kindergarten there. One of my dearest friends teaches in Norris Hall and by the grace of God, she wasn’t there yesterday morning. My school was locked down and finally we closed school and had parents pick up their kids. We had to wait a long time for some kids to be picked up, since their parents were locked down on campus. In one kid’s case, we were very afraid that his parents had been among the dead or wounded. Finally we got hold of his dad’ both parents had been called to meetings that morning, so they weren’t in the building.

    Today, all schools in the county are closed and I can’t stop hugging my children. I spent all yesterday being brave and unaffected so that my student’s wouldn’t know what was going on. Today it’s all hitting me that this is real and that something monstrous happened to my community.

    I love L’engle’s books. I do think that she’s writing the truth about good, evil and how the most ordinary things are actually a bulwark against evil. When I heard what was going on at Tech, my first thought was “Ecthroi at work”. And that gave me the strength to conciously choose good thoughts, good actions, hope. Because even a little light pushes back the darkness.

  20. Aimee

    Oh, Paige, I’m glad that your friend and your student’s parets weren’t hurt, but so sorry for everyone else. What a terrible thing.

    Is “A Wind in the Door” the one where Meg has to name things, love them to defeat them, even her petty unkind principal? I loved that book.

  21. Wendy

    So true.

  22. mcewen

    Mums [Moms] are the same, the world over.
    Best wishes

  23. GidgetBBW

    As long as there are wonderful, caring and compassionate people like you (and your readers who paused everytime they saw there children yesterday and today and thanked the universe for their safety) then the world’s nasty evils are held at bay – if just for a moment. Until the next heartbreaking news story about a solider who is not coming come, or a mother who loses her child to gang violence or a wife who loses her new husband to a crazed psychopath. It is times like these when people come together and remember to hug our kids a little tighter, give them more kisses and bask in their wonderful innocence.

  24. rachel

    I had forgotten about that section. *Shudder* We listened to the Series of Unfortunate Events this morning rather than the news – it was definitely cheerier.

    I worry about so much – kids should simply be safe. I wish that were easy.

  25. Cindy

    Very good post. I live less than an hour from Blacksburg. My father worked there and my brother attended 20 years ago so this hit close to home for me. So much closer for so many others. My daughter is at college right now (different one, thank God) and my sympathy for the parents is so deep it hurts. I think of the book of Revelations, which is the ultimate scary tale, and the duty of all Christians…the great commission. I ask myself if what I’m doing on a day to day, year to year basis is bringing the message of salvation to others. Because in one scant moment, this life can be gone.

  26. Chinjo

    Good Post – my youngest son is in college (here locally, thank God!) My heart breaks for the families of this tragedy. All I could think of yesterday was “Thank God my son doesn’t go there” and I feel bad for thinking that selfishly but I can’t even imagine what all those parents are feeling – the ones who lost their children and the ones who will hold theirs closer because they were spared.

    God Bless them all!!

  27. Brenda

    Thank you for this lovely post. I am a faculty member at VA Tech and my daughter is a sophomore there. We are both safe and were fortunate to have been across campus when the worst of it occurred. It is an incredibly sad time here …. It is just now beginning to sink in for many of us. The support from around the world has been incredible.

  28. carrien

    When I was pregnant with my second we had friends in Liberia who were being evacuated because of the war. THey had to leave two of their children behind because they were adopted and didn’t have the right papers to leave the country yet. I remember weeping, curled over my growing belly, terrified of the idea of having one more piece of my heart walking around so tragically vulnerable. That feeling never leaves, it just subsides and comes back to choke you in that moment when you can’t find them for a second too long, or another tragedy plays itself out nearby and those children become yours in your heart.

  29. Rache

    I was at work already when it happend and did not get to hear it until I went for my break. My daughter is in college (far away from Blacksburg), but I kept thinking it could happen anywhere. That night instead of her coming home by herself, I picked her up, more for my peace of mind than hers. It’s never easy when a tragedy like this happens, but we have to keep living if only to keep evil from winning.

  30. julie

    The night I brought my beautiful 5-day old baby girl home from the hospital, Chernobyl happened. I, too, questioned bringing a baby into this terrifying world.

    Fifteen years later she was at school on 9/11. Lil Daughter spent the day in the Art Room with all the other students and staff because it was one of the few in the school with cable. When I picked her up that afternoon, there was a beautiful painting, 4ft x 4ft, on an easel in the school lobby. It was the New York City skyline minus the Twin Towers. There were tears coming from the windows on the buildings. She had painted it while watching the news.

    Bring your baby in to the world and love her, Becky. Our children are our hope.

  31. Melanie

    That’s an amazing book. I’m so glad my son is still too young to have to know about what goes on in the world, because having to share all this with him would be too heartbreaking. I like that I have a little longer to shelter him from the storms.

  32. Cynthia Samuels

    I know what you mean. On both counts. Among the memories I cherish the reading aloud of all the L’Engle series. There is something remarkable about the universe she has created – and amidst the evil, something empowering too. The magical, cerebral brother and strong, resourceful daughter — it’s a far cry from “save the cheerleader, save the world” – although that’s kind of fun too.

    Unfortunately, I was a reporter for long enough to be involved in coverage of several of these kinds of incidents. There are no words for them; beyond the tragedy the toughest thing to me is the “might have been” stuff that always accompanies them. And of course the individual stories. In this case, the school and the lost were such a cross-section of our country at its best – from holocaust survivors to African American dorm advisors to confident, sassy 17 year olds with vaguely Middle Eastern surnames to beloved white-bread professors. Maybe we need to be proud of that diversity that shows a direction our country is moving BEYOND these senseless acts. AND to remember that this is what Bagdhad is like every day. I just thought of that. Holy cow.

  33. Ali B.

    I think we’re all kind of fighting Evil itself, every day. Not necessarily in the big ways, but in the small ones. It’s so hard to tell kids about these things. But we have to – because this is the world they live in, that they will inherit. Oh, man, though. It is so hard. Thanks for putting it into words.

  34. becky

    Wow, Julie – thank you for that.

  35. Lucinda

    There is a quote that says, “to have children is to forever choose to let your heart walk outside of your body” or something like that. Having children is an act of faith more than anything else I believe. Faith that they will be ok and that God will take care of them.

    Tragedies occur but so do miracles. My daughter was born on Sept. 11, 2001. 2 weeks early. When I saw her, especially compared to my son born later, it was obvious she was earlier than she was meant to be. My water broke before I knew about the tragedy so it wasn’t because of stress. She just came. God knew.

    On days like this, I hang on to that. Evil may exist but so does great Good.

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