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Newtown tries to embrace the new normal

Updated 8:33 pm, Monday, December 24, 2012

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  • Mike Kerler, owner of Sandy Hook Wine and Liquer looks at the window of his store Monday, Dec. 24, 2012. Memorials to the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School are set up right outside his shop door. Photo: Carol Kaliff / The News-Times

    Mike Kerler, owner of Sandy Hook Wine and Liquer looks at the window of his store Monday, Dec. 24, 2012. Memorials to the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School are set up right outside his shop door.

    Photo: Carol Kaliff

 

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NEWTOWN -- Errands as mundane as washing clothes and buying bread took on new meaning this Christmas Eve. Doing the little things, a town shattered by the shooting deaths of 20 children and six educators began to embrace routine, to carry on holiday traditions and to look ahead to happier, or at least less sad, days.

Mourners continued to bring flowers and stuffed animals to overflowing memorials and police remained to direct traffic, though there were fewer cars than earlier in the week.

"Every day it gets a little easier to deal with," 36-year-old Chris Jaouen said as he waited for his clothes to dry at PJ's Laundromat, less than a mile from Sandy Hook Elementary, the site of the Dec. 14 massacre.

Shoppers packed grocery stores, bought lattes, sat for haircuts, trying to prove to themselves and the world that life will carry on.

Vinn Caggianiello, father of a Sandy Hook third-grader, spent Monday morning buying his little girl a handheld video game, a last-minute add to her stocking. He has kept an American flag at half-staff and, unlike some, kept his Christmas lights on.

"It's a tragedy," said Caggianiello, 40, "but we're trying to give her Christmas."

Lynda Weber, a 12-year Newtown resident who owns a local yoga studio, began the day as she often does, teaching a class. She turned on softer tunes than usual and focused on introspection more than physical intensity.

But she let herself be treated to a pedicure in the afternoon. She got her favorite color, a sparkly purple, and selected a trio of celebrity gossip magazines for light reading.

"I don't think there's ever going to be a normal like there was before, so I think it's important to create a new normal," Weber said. "For me it means I'm more conscious of people around me. I think I'm less in my own world. I feel like I'm connecting more with the community."

Weber has decided to start offering a free weekly yoga class, accepting donations to help her town heal. She's seen the process begin, slowly. Three teachers from Sandy Hook, for example, have returned to class.

"They're all OK -- physically," she said.

Many shoppers added something special to their lists this year: candles. Nicole Russo, a 39-year-old mom from Fairfield whose nephews survived the shootings, asked supporters to line their driveways with luminarias on Christmas Eve to honor the victims.

Danielle Violet, stopping at Caraluzzi's market for whipped cream and coffee creamer, will have candles on display at her home.

"Everything will be pretty much normal," said Violet, 21. "We just can't be down and completely lose our holiday spirit. But we're going to be putting candles out for the 26 angels."