2012 ended on just about the saddest note imaginable, and a year that was at times filled with sadness and devastation mercifully came to an end Monday. The nature of the stories that unfolded - especially the shootings in Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo., (separated by less than five months) - seemed even more frightening because of their frequency, which only drove home the point that these nightmares can and do happen anywhere.
That's why, as a parent and as an American, not only did I bid adieu to 2012, I held the door open and kicked it on its way out. Before I could get the word "riddance" out of my mouth, I said "welcome" to the new year, which leads to my new year's resolution.
A couple years back, I painted a pretty bleak picture in this space of the new year to come. The previous year was rough and I predicted another dire one ahead, mostly because I'm a cynical pessimist at heart. I don't want to be, but I'm a newspaper editor - what do you expect?
I took some criticism about my bleak outlook on the coming year. Some readers challenged why I would paint such a dreary picture and share my negative feelings with the readers. So this year, I'm resolving to at least try on my new pair of rose-colored glasses.
I'm doing this for selfish reasons. I want to believe better days are ahead for this country, but also for myself and my daughter. And I'm doing this because what happened in Newtown made me take a look at my life, a little self-examination if you will.
On Thursday morning at about 7:20, I sent my daughter out the door and on her way to her cousin's house, where the two would soon hop in the car and start the 12-minute drive to Tracy for the first day of school in 2013. Ho-hum. Most kids don't look forward to the end of Christmas break and the resumption of school, and we parents joke about how nice it is to get the kids out of our hair and back in the classroom after having to spend nearly two weeks shuttling them around and trying to keep them from growing bored - in other words, being parents.
But if you think about it, we need to be thankful that the return to school this past week was as routine as possible for us and our kids.
In Newtown, Sandy Hook Elementary School officials had a greater task when it came to returning to the routine and welcoming their students back. They and their students were returning to school, but not their school - that's still a crime scene. The 400-plus Sandy Hook students attended class at a remodeled school in a completely different town. The school was redone to include the students' original desks. Their backpacks and other items were transferred from the original Sandy Hook to the new Sandy Hook. Bathroom floors were raised so the smaller students could reach the toilets. The classroom walls were painted the same colors as in their old school, and pictures that adorned the walls at the original Sandy Hook were hanged at the new Sandy Hook.
This group was a Ty Pennington cameo short of filming an "Extreme Makeover" episode.
That's a lot of work to capture the "routine." And to say the little students were welcomed with open arms is the understatement of this very young year.
My daughter, all her classmates, and every other school-aged kid in this country who returned to school this past week didn't receive that kind of welcome, and I thank God they didn't need it. It wasn't necessary for them. They got to go back to their own school where everything was already cozy and familiar.
Our elementary-aged students who begrudgingly shuffled back to school after the Christmas break probably don't appreciate the normalcy that surrounds them, but we parents sure better. To me, the words "regular" and "normal" have taken on new meaning since Dec. 14, 2012. While they may appear to be just two regular words in the dictionary, when it comes to our kids, they're two of the most important ones in there.