Supper Time: The Connecticut Tragedy

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Tuesday, January 8th, 2013
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Harold A Maio, 75, is retired from teaching German and mental health editing, though he keeps a hand in both. Through art and German he has a lasting interest in expression, particularly in language. To him word is art, he likes to discern the meaning in word.

Harold speaks to Newry Times this week about the Connecticut Tragedy.

Harold A Maio

I am sitting in my home, preparing dinner, while children are being killed all over the world.

The latest tragedy to reach my ears, the murder of children in an elementary school in the US. Adults there, too. How do I sit down to dinner with killing ringing in my ears, and what else can I do but live the day as any other, between each thought the dead children.

The menu is prepared, each night I plan for the nest day. The food is set out, ready to sauté, broil, a daily ritual.

The news reports are unending, every second repeated stories of the murders. What can one do but report? Outside the tragedy one reports about it, inside, parents scream their creams and mourn their losses, dinner tonight will be a strange thing for them.

The children who survived are picked up by their parents each one rejoicing in the life’s breath of their child. Each one thankful to take their children home to live and for the continuation of this day, with unbelievable relief that their child/children sit at the table, passing the food, drinking the milk, tasting dessert.

Between each course of food, repeated sounds of gunshots echoing in minds, confusion, running, and learning of the dead.

I planned tonight’s dinner yesterday as I always do. The connection between today and yesterday firmly in my mind, and the thought of tomorrow, too. Tomorrow will come for me, for my family for my children, and not for so many others throughout the world.

I try to mourn for the children in Syria, their distance from me softens the deaths that I do not feel them. Connecticut is close, the reports instantaneous, I feel the deaths. The mothers feel those deaths and wail, the fathers too. Their voices reach me, there is nothing I can do.

Some deaths are carried out with cold rationality, “I kill to save an idea in me”, and some from such distance the only rationality is aiming the weapons that will kill an abstract distant people. Men, women children, all for an ideal someone feels… and kills for.

The deaths do not reach their ears, their ears are closed to the suffering they perpetrate.

I make the sauce for the steak I will serve tonight, a bit of stock, a clove of garlic, a bit of anchovies, a swirl of butter emulsifying the sauce. As I learned from cooking shows on TV. In the background as I type the reports continue.

With the typing I separate myself from the news, the lyrics of a 1933 song repeating in my mind, Ethel Waters singing a wife’s reaction to news of her husband’s murder, lynching: Supper time I should set the table, ’cause it’s supper time, Somehow I’m not able…

How many parents will be setting how many tables in that small Connecticut town, and in those towns about which I know nothing. How many grandparents will be weeping at the loss of a child, and how many neighbors will try their best to console the parents with one less ease filled at the dinner table.

Forever. And what can I do except express my thoughts, my fingers dancing frantically on the keys, a fugue expressing itself in movement. I separate myself from the grief by typing, making my mind address the murders in the distancing tapping on keys. Forming words in my mind, directing them to the page.

We will decide whether to eat at the table of our  newly installed bar in the kitchen, on stools or on chairs. We will fold the napkins carefully, lay out the silver, fill the glasses.

There is some consolation in the forced thinking,the constructing of thoughts.

It is 4;52, we will decide where to sit, at the table or the newly constructed bar in the kitchen. We will place neatly folded napkins, glasses filled with water. carefully polished silverware. I will whisk butter into the steak sauce, as I learned on TV, emulsifying the stock, anchovies, spices into a blend to serve alongside the steak.

It’s supper time, I can set the table, ‘cause its supper time…


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