One day after the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., my precious redheaded granddaughter celebrated her sixth birthday.
She was so excited she couldn't sit still.
She played games with her friends. She blew out the candles on her cake as everyone sang "Happy Birthday." She opened her gifts, and she welcomed a special guest to her big event -- Santa Claus.
It was a typical child's birthday party in so many ways.
Their joy was genuine and comforting.
The adults, though, struggled. As we watched our children play, our minds kept revisiting the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where six adults and 20 children had been gunned down the previous day. The deceased children were the same ages as our children at the party.
Most of the parents, including my daughter, attending the birthday celebration had chosen not to talk about the tragic event to their young children. But we adults found the need to talk about it to one another -- out of earshot of the children.
One of my granddaughter's kindergarten teachers and her daughter were at the party. My daughter was volunteering in her classroom the morning of the tragedy. They couldn't help but make comparisons of what they were doing in their classroom at the same moments the horror was taking place in Sandy Hook.
In all, there were six teachers, ranging from kindergarten to high school, at the party. It became evident to us non-teachers that the teachers were, in fact, the heroes. We realized each one of them would have done exactly what the teachers at Sandy Hook did -- tried to protect their students, even if it meant giving up their own lives.
We'll never be able to make sense of what happened that horrible day in Connecticut, and we'll continue to pray for the families who lost their loved ones. And we'll always feel their pain. But we'll also have a renewed awareness of how incredibly valuable the teachers are in our children's lives.
Meanwhile, on a happier note, in my previous Grand Thoughts column, I ask readers to share holiday traditions they celebrate with their grandchildren. Here are two of my favorites.
Susi Westbrook says her family enjoys baking treats together.
"I can remember me and my mom spending lots of days when my boys were young in the kitchen making fudge, cookies, Chex mix, peanut butter balls, banana bread and many other things. Having had three sons, I didn't get them in the kitchen very often to enjoy the tradition but now that I have granddaughters, I can continue to carry that on. I totally look forward to having all the girls when they get a little older, singing, baking, licking the batter and having a ball."
Pam Honeycutt says that two years ago she started a Christmas tradition with her grandsons Zachary, 10, Zander, 6, and Zevan, 2.
"Target sells gift cards shaped like large coins," she explains. "They come in packages of five. I load $5 on each coin. On Christmas morning, I make a very detailed scavenger hunt for each of the boys.
"Each year, when they arrive at my house on Christmas morning, they are always eager to begin their hunt. In January, when the new is worn off of their Christmas toys, their mom and I take them to Target where they get to choose a very special gift with their $25 from MeMe and PopPop."
Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...