"Hi, baby, how ever are you?"
"Oh, in heaven, everything is fine. There's no pain, sickness, sadness. What about on Earth?"
"Well, there's all of that and we miss you terribly."
"I miss you too, Mommy, but please smile for me. I see you every day. I have a pony and I am in charge of watering the old man's garden."
If any of the 20 Sandy Hook Elementary School students who lost their lives last year were able to talk to their mothers, that's how the conversation would sound. Or so, Helena Ainsley Solomonian, 7, believes.
The second-grader at Harbor View Elementary School in Corona del Mar teamed up with her brother, Maxx Henry, 10, and their father, Patrick, and his girlfriend, Sara Henderson, to create "Some Things Forever (A Sandy Hook Tribute)." The song — an effort to honor the 26 people who were gunned down in Connecticut last Dec.14 — was released Wednesday, just in time for the first anniversary of the shootings on Saturday.
The group hopes that people will purchase the track on iTunes and download it on Spotify and elsewhere, helping to reach the goal of raising $1 million by Christmas, one dollar at a time, for the Newtown community.
In August, Patrick was seated in Los Angeles-based Westlake Recording Studios — where heavy hitters such as Madonna, Men at Work and Michael Jackson have played — when inspiration struck. The longtime musician penned the tribute, contributed guitar, bass and more, and enlisted his children's help.
"This year, we decided to give instead of get," said Maxx, a blossoming drummer who added percussion to the song as well as vocals, along with Helena.
A love for music runs deep in the light gray Solomonian-Henderson home with its bright red door. Inside is a litany of instruments from a keyboard to a ukulele. A Christmas tree, on which a forlorn-looking owl hangs, and a Super Mario-themed wind chime share the space with autographed pictures of noted guitarist Steve Morse and Australian musician Orianthi.
When Maxx received news about the Sandy Hook tragedy from his father, he was stunned.
"I felt like that was a really stupid thing to do," he said. "That guy didn't look cool at all. He looked like he was going to go off and bomb Disneyland or something."
Although the curly-haired siblings both called the shooting "sad," that may be one of the few things they agree on. Their individual natures are clear to see.
Helena, who goes by Laney, introduced herself as Miss Helena Solomonian — presenting a cheeky smile and flourish of hands — followed immediately by a request for her parents to take her to Disneyland "to see snow." The energetic, crooked-toothed tot idolizes Katy Perry, Taylor Swift and One Direction.
Seated comfortably on the drum set in the corner of his bedroom, Maxx, who has a lady love named Portia and said math is his favorite class — after recess, of course — reveres Rush, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple instead. None of those computer-generated beats for him — he likes his music au naturel.
And he should know about music. After all, despite his young age, the drummer extraordinaire has performed at Whisky a Go Go, the former stomping grounds of another favorite, the Doors, and plans to return to the iconic West Hollywood venue for a show on Dec. 22.
Patrick finds that he doesn't need to persuade his son to practice. The boy does so on his own with great gusto and recently released a demo CD containing five original songs. Working on "Some Things Forever (A Sandy Hook Tribute)" is meant to instill civic duty in Maxx and Helena — a lesson, the father believes, people are never too young to learn.
Since the massacre, reports of the courageous acts by the children and teachers at Sandy Hook have surfaced. If she'd been in the school compound Dec. 14, Helena said, without flinching, she would try to tell everyone to run. But since she wasn't there and her favorite subject is "being nice," she mused, she could cheer up the grieving parents with knock-knock jokes.
Sara, who portrayed the mother in the poignant dialogue with Helena in the song, was in England when Adam Lanza stormed through the academic institution. The 33-year-old recalled feeling frustrated by the number of shootings popping up in headlines worldwide. Patrick's initial disbelief was soon replaced by sadness — they're children and it's only a week before Christmas, he thought.
"As a mother, it is very emotional to contemplate the loss of a child, so it was a very difficult project for me," she said, referring to the feelings she has for Maxx and Helena. "People should listen because they put a lot of heart into this, and it is important to honor the memories of these victims."
While many Sandy Hook families have found solace in the notes their slain children had left for them declaring "I love my mom" or "I love my dad," Sara leaves messages of her own. Pink paper taped to the wall by Maxx and Helena's bunk bed reminds them that they are treasured.
"When I was a kid, I used to go in the ocean all the time and then 'Jaws' came out," Patrick said. "It changed, even to this minute, my perspective of being in the water. So with [Sandy Hook], since they're all little kids and there's so many of them, when I pick them up every day, it's always in the back of my mind, 'Am I going show up with some crazy thing going on?'"