LITTLETON, Colo.—In a neighborhood a few miles south of Littleton's Columbine High School, little kids are playing T-ball on a perfect springtime evening.
As the sun sets over the purple foothills, parents talk to each other while keeping one eye on the field.
It is pretty here. And timeless in the way suburban neighborhoods are. A group of boys, like those from previous generations, stop their bikes along a path to fish for crawdads with bits of hot dog tied to dirty string.
Two little girls are roller-blading shakily, shrieking and holding onto each other's hands. Other kids set elaborate traps for a fox that is rumored to live under the footbridge.
This was Daniel Mauser's neighborhood. On April 20, 1999, he was a 15-year-old sophomore killed in the worst high school shooting in this country's history.
A recent visitor remarked that the neighborhood was “prettier than you'd think, you know, what with all that happened here.”
She meant, of course, how could any place connected to the ugliness and horror that has become known as Columbine, ever again be a place of beauty, serenity and normal life?
That's where Madeline comes in.
Daniel's parents, Tom and Linda Mauser, who are parishioners at St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Parish in Littleton, decided to adopt a Chinese baby. It was their way of dealing with the tragedy that took their son's life. He was killed when fellow students Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris killed 12 students and a teacher and injured 23 others.
Last fall the Mausers and their ninth-grade daughter, Christie, traveled to southern China to bring home their new little girl, Madeline HaiXing.
“HaiXing, in Chinese, means Ocean Star,” Linda Mauser told the Denver Catholic Register, newspaper of the Denver Archdiocese, as Madeline gurgled and crushed crackers in her high chair.
“We Americans may see ourselves as superior to other poorer cultures,” Tom Mauser said, “yet we have our own problems. We have children killing children.
“We wanted a girl,” he added. “A boy would be too much like trying to replace Daniel and no child, of course, can do that. We didn't want to relive soccer and scouting and all those boy things.”
“And we wanted to do good for a child who needed us,” Linda said.
When asked if he had any parenting advice, Tom Mauser shrugged, indicating it was really pretty basic.
“Hug your kids a lot,” he said as he picked up his daughter and held her for a second before she wriggled free.
In the months since the tragic shooting, the Mauser family aches to be whole. And normal.
When Tom's at work and Christie's at school, Linda will likely tuck Madeline into her stroller, if the weather's nice, and walk her through the neighborhood.
The ball field, the creek, the elusive fox, they are Madeline's now. Robins sing and Canada geese fly overhead.
Springtime has come to Columbine.------- EXCERPT: