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When You Drop Off Your Kids and Hope Today Isn’t ‘The Day’

I put on the sweatshirt this morning. The one I was wearing a week ago. I haven’t worn it since last Friday and when I pulled it out of my closet today and over my head, I hoped to claim a new day for it. It’s grey and has a cowl neck (that’s a thing right?) and I bought it at the thrift store a few weeks ago. I’d only worn it once before last Friday and I’d put it on then looking forward to a day of writing talk and actual writing. A treat of a day for me.

Our sitter was at home with the littles last Friday morning, the two bigs at their respective schools, and I sat in the Starbucks parking lot in my minivan eating my breakfast sandwich and drinking my coffee waiting for a work phone call. It was my office for that appointment before I headed to my quiet library space to write where phone calls are thankfully prohibited. My phone rang. Another middle school mom. I didn’t answer knowing I couldn’t start a conversation about soccer practice and tween drama because I needed to talk editorial process and deadlines.

Immediately a text from this same middle school mom.

And just like that, my day changed.

The text said the middle school was on lock down for real this time. The SWAT team was there, but all was over and everything was okay. Suddenly I was very aware of the helicopter flying circles overhead. I was parked only blocks from the middle school. This time was different. Our girls’ schools are often on lockdown, but the SWAT team doesn’t normally come. As quickly as I realized what was happening, I had an urgency to be with my eldest girl. To see her, know she was okay. Already in the car it took me a total of 2 minutes to get to the school surrounded by police and every television station known to man (well at least to Denver.)

police

The rest of the day was a whirlwind of tears and pits in my stomach as I imagined the what ifs. Of waves of relief as I remembered again and again that she, my child I have known the longest, my firstborn, was okay. Of so many prayers. In fact it felt like the day was one long prayer of grief and gratitude. Of me doing my best to hold this girl close to me recognizing that she is growing and pulling away just as she should and that my resistance seeped in fear was fed a huge meal by 3 boys making bad choices a week ago today.

We quickly learned from the local news 3 boys were arrested, led out of the building with blankets over their heads to prevent the television stations catching their child faces on camera. Two of them brought guns to school and the third a mysterious smoke device. So many cameras in front of the school. And so strange to sit in our living room watching images of people we knew and the anchors saying our place, OUR school’s name, over and over.

There have been fewer tears with each day in the last week. More normalcy. But the waves of grief for this world still come and it’s been difficult to focus too much on anything else. Dinner still needs to be made, work emails sent and yes, kids need to be dropped off at school.

I read the police report this morning, squinting to make out the fuzzy photocopied words with names and addresses blacked out with Sharpie. And again the what ifs and prayers for these boys and their families whose lives are set on an unknown trajectory.

Today is a wet, sloppy kind of spring snow day in Denver. Very different from the bright blue sky that was the backdrop for the helicopter last week. Grateful for new days. For school staff and police officers who trained for last Friday and carried out their work swiftly. Thankful for a husband who urged me to “just go get her” when I called through my tears. Thankful for a girl who thought it wasn’t that big a deal and continues to pull and stretch and grow up and away.

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