It was a sunny Monday, like this one—the day of her first big league baseball game, and my pig-tailed seven-year-old stood on the Boston Marathon finish line, blinking back the sunlight.
This was our "Special Day," as she kept calling it, just the two of us riding the swan boats in the Boston Public Garden, eating ice cream from a van on Boston Common, then a lunch of Fenway Franks at the ballpark, and finally fortifying ourselves for the two-hour drive home to Connecticut with a bulk purchase at Sugar Heaven, the candy store on Boylston Street.
As my daughter drowsed in the backseat, bracing for a return to three siblings and domestic chaos, I asked her what she thought and she said, "Best day ever." And then, too soon, we were home, and Siobhan's carriage turned back into a pumpkin.
That was last Aug. 27—the last day of summer vacation, the day before school started—but I returned to it again and again on Monday, after seeing that bomb go off next to Sugar Heaven, and the chaotic scenes that followed at the Boston Marathon finish line, where my daughter still stands in a photograph that I took on that other Monday seven months ago, our Special Day, a day full of promise and Skittles.
In that photo on the finish line, saved on my phone, she wears a sweatshirt emblazoned LOVE & PEACE.
When the news broke Monday that the bombings had killed an eight-year-old—another child out on a Special Day, Boylston Street a festival of flags and runners and happy spectators, and shop windows chockablock with candy—I felt the way I did in December, racing home from the Newtown area after the Sandy Hook shootings and running into the house like Jim Valvano: looking for someone to hug.
It happened again on Monday, when Newtown residents were on the course and among the spectators in Boston. The kids burst into the house from a happy and oblivious afternoon in the park, bewildered and resistant as I hugged them.
When my eldest daughter, who is now eight, saw the chaos on CNN, I explained to her what had happened, and where. She asked who had done it (I didn't know), and why (I couldn't say), and whether the people who work in Sugar Heaven—repeatedly in the background on TV—were O.K.
Sugar Heaven still comes up, seven months after our Special Day, because scarcely a week has passed since last Aug. 27 that my daughter hasn't asked when we can go back to Boston, to another Red Sox game, to Sugar Heaven, and to run across the marathon finish line, arms raised in triumph like we'd just won the race.
She has plenty to remind her. We came home from our Special Day with a RED SOX cling decal for Mom's van, and a sequined Sox hat for Siobhan, and a father-and-daughter picture taken by the roving Fenway photographer in the stands. It's now framed on my daughter's bedroom wall, the Green Monster as backdrop to the Best Day Ever.