Monday morning. Just one week from Christmas Eve.

Seems like I was just sitting down at my parent’s dining room table, joining hands with the many members of my family, giving Thanks for all the blessings that God has given us. There were 22 of us around the table that day - and we had much to be thankful for. We still do. 

First and foremost among those blessings, our kids. Between the six of us Purtan girls, we have been lucky enough to bring eight wonderful, happy & healthy children into the world. Six boys and two girls. As of this writing, they range in age from 18 (my sister Jill’s son Matthew) to almost 11 monthes (my baby sister Julie’s little guy Brayden). 

My son, Charlie, is eleven. And, to be honest, he is the center of my universe. He’s the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning and the last think I think about before falling asleep. 

I love his laugh, his big brown eyes, the smell of his freshly shampooed hair. I love that he doesn’t care if his socks don’t match (“Mom…NOBODY’S gonna see ‘em!”) and the fact that he always asks if he can take an extra dollar on “Bagel Day” in case one of his friends forgets their money and might miss out. I love watching his hands fly over the keys - be it on the computer or the piano. I love his insistance that “hot dogs” should have their own spot on the “Food Pyramid”. I love that he loves to read (although if you ask him, he will adamently deny it). I love that he knows everything there is to know about all 649 “Pokemon” characters and will willingly spend hours sharing that knowledge with anyone brave enough to ask about it. I love that he keeps a journal and writes love poems that he will never show the girl he has had a continuous crush on since he was 7. I love when he tells me that I am “So 20th century”. And I love a little ritual that we started back on his first day of Kindergarten. 

I remember how scared he was that day… New school, new teacher, new classmates. I had even taken the day off work from Dad’s radio show to make sure I was there on that all-important day. As we made our way to school, I tried to ease his fears by talking about all the exciting things he was about to encounter. I explained that the first day of school was really the beginning of a fascinating journey…one that could take him anywhere he wanted to go. “Where I want to go”, he said fighting back crocodile tears, “is home.” 

“I know, Charlie,” I replied - trying not to let him see the tears blurring my own eyes. Then I said, “Hey… I think there’s something in your pocket.” 

With that, his plump little five-year-old hands began rummaging thru the pockets of his little-man jeans. 

“Did you find it?” I asked. 

“I’m not sure,” he said, clearly perplexed. “It’s a little piece of paper with a heart drawn on it”. 

“That’s my heart,” I explained. “It’s going to school with you. If you ever get scared or feel lonely, just put your hand in your pocket and know that I am thinking about you.” 

As we pulled up to the school he folded the piece of paper, smiled, and put it carefully back in his pocket. 

Over the years our little ritual underwent some changes. The paper with my heart on it fell out of his pocket one day and he got embarrassed. So instead, we switched to words - over the phone when I was at the radio station, and on the drive to school now that I work out of my home. 

“Do you know how much I love you?” I ask. 

“Uh, huh.” he replies. 

“Can I tell you anyway?” I ask.

“Yup”, he replies. 

And then I recite the words that I have said what seems like a million times, but are as true today as they were the first day I said them: “I love you more than the moon and the stars and all the planets in all the universes in all the galaxies from the beginning of time til the end of forever which will be never because forever never ends.” 

And without fail, he smiles and says, “I love you that much too, Mom”. Sometimes he even touches his pocket. 

I know that there are parents in a small town in Connecticut who probably had a similar ritual that they went thru every morning with their little one - be it a heart on a piece of paper or a simple kiss on the head. Whatever it was, they woke up this morning without the opportunity to share that with their child. I can’t imagine their pain. I can’t even begin to comprehend it. But I hope and pray that God’s grace and the Prayers and support of family, friends, our nation and people around the world will somehow get them through the unimaginable. 

I drew a heart on a little piece of paper this morning…and put it in my own pocket. It’s just like the one’s I used to draw everyday for Charlie, but today, that heart is broken.