Hank: Prima (cousin) Monica, I am so happy you’re here.
Monica: Me, too! We are going to have a great summer.
Me: We are so excited to spend the whole summer with you. Thank you so much for coming.
Monica: It’s no problem. It’s so beautiful here and I love you guys. We’re going to have so much fun together and I am here to help as much as I can.
Me: Then let’s get to it, shall we. Today we need to sort out your room. There are a couple of storage options for converting my office into your own space. We can look at the local options today and then if we don’t find anything Ikea this weekend.
Hank: And I am going to stay home today from Gomos de Tangerina (Orange Slices, Hank’s summer activity program) and help because I love organizing and design and because it is your first day and I want to spend my day with you.
Monica: Awe, that is so sweet, Hank.
Hank: (noticing) Mama, How is your pain today?
Me: I am fine, buddy. (smiling)
Hank: Monica, there is a pain chart that has pictures from Adventure Time which is one of my favorite shows and we use it so my mom can tell us how she is feeling. Mama, do we have a copy of that chart?
Me: Yes, I do.
Hank: We need it for Monica to use.
Me: I will find where we put it and give it pride of place on the fridge.
Hank: Mama, someday when I ask you how you are you will tell me you are a 1 and I will be so happy I will cry and cry and hug you.
Monica: What is a 1?
Me: (beaming) A 1 is the lowest level of the pain on the pain scale chart and something I haven’t had in years. To give you some perspective my best days, as in the pre-pregnant with Molly days, were a 3 and most days I hover between a 5 and an 8.
Hank: But someday there will be a 1 and that will be my best day ever.
Hank: (lazing on the sofa after a long, happy day of playing in an oak grove, painting pictures and laughing hysterically) Mama, what are you watching?
Me: I am traumatized by a violent act in America so I am doing my best to be a helper.
Hank: Is this what happened with the discoteca (nightclub)? I heard about that. I can’t believe it has happened again. This keeps happening. My heart hurts.
Me: Mine, too.
Hank: It happens in schools to kids, at universities to people like my papa, now it happened to people dancing like in France. They were just dancing.
Me: It didn’t happen because they were dancing, my dove. It happened because the gunman hated them for being gay.
Hank: For being gay? He killed them because of love, because of who they love.
Hank: (mind blown, staring at the ceiling, dirty knees and paint splattered shins from a day spent in blissful childhood now being faced with the harsh truth of the world)
Me: I am writing to my state representatives demanding, as a voter, that they must enact a better form of gun control, registration and reform. In America every citizen has the right to bare arms, but there needs to be more laws for what kind of gun and knowing who has assault weapons. This is how I can help.
Hank: They have to change the law. This keeps happening, mama.
Me: I remembered seeing this film and it had an important point (minute 4:56) about the difference between buying a gun in Europe and in the United States.
Hank: You can’t buy a war gun in Portugal.
Me: And also you have to have register your gun along with your license which puts you on a list that authorities can have access to and is another cost on top of the license, but what I think is most critical and what I am adding in my letters to my representatives is here you are required to state your REASON for owning a gun. So if you want a rifle you can say your reason is for hunting and if you want to buy a handgun you can say your reason is you want to protect your home or even say it is for sport, but if you buy a war weapon, (getting emotional) a machine gun capable of shooting up to 800 bullets a minute what do you think your reason would be?
Hank: To kill people.
Hank: Mama, how can I help? What can I do? Can I write these people a letter too?
Me: (wiping my heart on my sleeve like a big red stain) Of course you can, but because you are not a registered voter they are not obligated to listen to you.
Hank: (leaving the couch, walking over and wrapping me in a hug)
Me: I think the most powerful thing you can do is work to end this ignorant hatred of marginalized people in your generation.
Hank: Like gay people?
Me: Any people that others are prejudice against for whatever reason: The GLBTQ community, people of other races and religions, people with disabilities, women. You can be the change now. When you hear a school colleague or an adult using ignorant, hateful speech against another you can be brave and not tolerate it. You can vocally dismiss their ignorant ideas or more effectively you can go up to them, look them in the eye, respectfully disagree and say why. Your grandparent’s generation did that for civil rights and women’s equality and my generation did that for GLBTQ and reproductive rights. (balling my hands into fists) I am so angry, Hank. I am so angry you will still have to protest this shit.
Hank: (taken back, hand rubbing my back) Mama.
Me: I apologize, but this requires some adult language. (crying) Those people in that club could have been any of our friends and family. The people in the club, restaurant and market in France could have been any of our friends or family. The children and teachers at the schools could have been you or teachers like your cousin Becca or your Aunt Kelly. The people at the universities could have been your papa. Violence is ubiquitous, meaning it is everywhere, but there is this gun violence in America… THIS can change. We have to change it.
Hank: I love America. I am an American, but about guns I am Portuguese and I am happy we live here. But Mama, I have to stop speaking about this. My heart cannot take it and you are so upset. Can we drink some tea and maybe take a break? We could watch Modern Family and laugh. Laughing is medicine.
Me: (smiling into a hug) You’re right, Hank, I could use a break. Thank you for talking to me about this and for reminding me when is enough.