December 29, 2004

Ruby Slippers

Tonight one of the extra kids at our house was a neighbor girl whose parents had a funeral to attend. When the little girl arrived, she was not wearing boots, despite snowy weather which called for winter boots. She was wearing her brand new Christmas shoes. I could tell by the way she walked in, proudly and self-consciously, that she loved these shoes. They were bright red and glittery, exactly like the ruby slippers in the Wizard of Oz. She took them off carefully, wiped the snow off them, and set them on the stairs so that I could admire them.

The house was fairly quiet because my spouse had a board meeting and my older kids were at my parents' house, being served a home-cooked meal and being entertained by their grandparents. Ruby Slipper Girl and my two youngest kids sat in the living room under the glowing lights of the Christmas tree and played a board game, which was one of many new toys in the house. I added some logs to the fire in the fireplace and sat on the couch with the newspaper, listening with half my mind to their silly conversations and earnest arguments about the rules of the game.

With the other half of my mind, I read story after story about the tsunami disaster. I looked at photos of women and men mourning the loss of their children, images of drowned bodies piled into mass graves, and tables of statistics predicting how many more will likely die from disease.

When her parents returned from the funeral, the little girl put on her ruby slippers and went home.

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