It began badly and got worse.
My friend couldn’t find “purple” formula anywhere in town, the several times she looked. There was no Enfamil Gentle Lease to be had, with or without her WIC vouchers. I didn’t give Rosie formula for more than some supplemental feeding the first week, so I didn’t know that formula with a purple label is usually the stuff concocted to be extra gentle. That was the kind the baby needed, preferably the Enfamil but any purple would do. But this morning, the baby had had watered down milk for breakfast. There wasn’t anything else.
This wasn’t safe, so I helped her search around town. I was prepared to drive all the way to Robinson if I had to. I got lucky. I found a different brand of gentle formula in Wintersville on the first try; they must’ve just restocked.
There is not enough formula to go around. I wondered if I was robbing another child of breakfast as I took the purple can off the shelf. I thought about taking two, the maximum allowed per customer, but I just grabbed the one.
I asked the clerk if the bright yellow security tag would set off the store’s alarm as I left, and she assured me it wouldn’t.
I live in a country where they ration baby formula and put security tags on it in case of thieves.
I came home to more news about that massacre in Texas. There was Governor Abbot, puffing that it could have been a lot worse if not for the brave police.
There, on social media, were the photos of children, beautiful children, Latino American children with glorious saints’ names and warm smiles. There was that photo of little Jacklyn Cazares at her First Holy Communion. There was the courageous teacher who was mowed down protecting these children. All the photos were smiling brightly.
I wondered what those faces looked like when they died.
I couldn’t get that thought out of my head.
I went out to the community garden.
There’s only one box left to fill with the dirt pile, which is almost gone. I needed some good hard work to get my mind off things, so I started shoveling. And every time I got exhausted from shoveling, I got on my hand and knees and yanked weeds. Weeds. Shovel. Weeds. Shovel. Over and over again. Great big piles of dandelion and bindweed and plantain tossed against the fence to wither.
I shoveled the soil until my back and arms burned and my face was beet red. I weeded until the paths almost looked neat. I went home and collapsed.
I remained collapsed all day yesterday, reading the news, fuming, furious.
The police left those children to die. They menaced and arrested their parents as the children were left to die. Children were calling 911 as heavily armed grown men refused to help. One of the police instructed a child to reveal their hiding place, and the child obeyed the police, and now that child is dead because of their obedience.
This morning I took my friend to get some groceries. The formula was nearly cleaned out; there were a few cans and bottles high on the shelf, and she got one. God help whoever comes later than we did.
I tried not to think about those children.
I came home and watched clips from the press conference. I read the further news about the shocking, unbelievable, inexcusable cowardice and laziness of the Uvalde police department.
There were nineteen police in the hall, and nineteen children trapped in that room were murdered. One human sacrifice for every worthless man who managed to preserve his own life through inaction.
They didn’t even look sorry.
I don’t know what I expected. It’s all so predictable. Twenty-three years ago, during the Columbine Massacre, police remained outside and refused to help for the fifty minutes between the first gunshot and the last. They took so long that a teacher inside bled to death. Four years ago, during the Marjory Stoneman Douglass Massacre, a police officer stood outside doing nothing for seven of the nine minutes it took for the murderer to have his fun. This week, those brave Texas rangers in their pristine white cowboy hats stood outside, not only refusing to help but making matters worse, for close to an hour while the gunman slaughtered little boys and girls. They do it this way because they want to. And they are offended when we don’t call them heroes.
I went back out to the garden.
My back was so sore from Wednesday’s shoveling, and the last of the soil was so heavy from the day’s rain, that I couldn’t hope to fill the bed. But I weeded. I weeded violently. I yanked weeds with roots nearly a foot long. I moved the cardboard over a new patch of weeds too thick to yank. I buried the potato plants so they’d form spuds and imagined that the potato plants were Texas rangers in those silly white hats. I cursed. I swore. I stimmed up and down between the garden beds, fuming. I don’t want to live in a world where babies can’t eat. I don’t want to live in a world where beautiful smiling children are slaughtered while able-bodied men with guns and cowboy hats loiter outside. And there’s nothing I can do to make it better.
A van drove by and parked.
“Hello, Mary!” said a woman I’d never met.
Apparently she was the organizer of the community garden, whom I’d been talking with a lot online but hadn’t ever seen in person. She recognized me from my profile photo. We got to chatting about the garden and our plans for the year. She showed me where the strawberries used to be, which is now covered in a blanket of poison ivy. She talked about drowning the impossible weeds in more mulch and maybe yanking up the fence. We talked about getting a few bags of soil to fill up the last of the beds easily.
Since only two gardeners have shown up, she gave me a third garden bed. I already have a Three Sisters in one, herbs and summer squash in another, tomatoes in pots and potatoes in barrels, and now I will have Japanese eggplant, more tomatoes, perhaps another squash, at least three kinds of sunflower just to make something beautiful. I’m going to set up a table outside the garden with baskets of organic vegetables and a “free” sign, to share with anyone who is hungry. I’m going to grow sunflowers just to give everyone something big and beautiful to look at when they get their food.
I got home before the rain began again.
I don’t exactly feel well, but I feel better.
I guess this is the lesson I have for you today: if you are overwhelmed with anger because of the people you can’t help, you should find a way to help someone closer to you. It will make you feel better.
Let’s all try to feel better, and fight another day.