China adoption diary: Newtown shooting and a holiday concert, interrupted
The moment Gretchen Belsie heard about the Newtown shooting was during adopted daughter Madeleine's first holiday concert performance.
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I decided to focus, as best I could, on the innocence and purity I saw expressed in the various performances. As the kindergarteners rattled unto the raisers and shrilled “Hello, how are you?” in different languages, holding up cards that read “Bonjour” and “Ni hao” for audience approval, I felt that palpable sense of innocence, that ability to represent a world that knows peace and tolerance and joy.Skip to next paragraph
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When Madeleine and the other second graders trooped in wearing homemade construction paper Kwanzaa crowns, I could feel the tears welling up. There she stood, proudly joining in with the song’s hand gestures and doing a yeoman’s job at lip-synching the unfamiliar words, happy as a lark and the picture of innocence. Soon after, the fifth graders took to the aisles, dancing in circles to the melancholy strains of “Lotsa Latkes.” Grace would never have been mistaken for a Jewish lass, even with the long dark skirt and shawl, but she did manage to hold hands briefly with several of the fifth grade boys and demonstrate a certain seriousness of purpose.
As the concert wrapped up, the audience was invited to join in singing that old folk ballad, “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony,” that Coca-Cola appropriated for its advertising campaign in the late 1960’s. By that point I was emotionally spent and could only let my tears flow. I wanted to believe that that world could still exist for my children.
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The following Monday, school administrators and teachers took time out of the daily schedule to review with the children the appropriate safety procedures they would need to know by heart should a similar emergency ever happen at their school. That night at the supper table, Grace confidently recounted what she had learned that day, listing all the hiding places she now knew about at school. “If we are in the gym, we’re all supposed to run and cram ourselves into the ball storage closet and KEEP QUIET.”
As a parent, you hope and pray that this discussion was only academic. But given recent tragic events in Newtown, Conn., perhaps the watchword of this generation of elementary school children is “innocence forearmed.”
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