It’s the Monday after vacation week, a nine-day blur of non-stop fun. We did it all; ice skating, snowman building, cookie baking, playdates, and excursions. And it worked too. I only thought about the coming Monday a handful of times, in those quiet moments when my mind would wander, worrying how I will be able to send my children back to school after yet another school shooting.
They are only four and seven years old, and don’t know anything about the tragedies, of course. My little one thinks lockdowns are a funny time that his class gets to sing songs in their quiet voices in the bathroom together, what fun! My older one is aware that “bad guys,” are the reason they practice hiding under their desks. “Bad guys are like evil super villains that don’t like to share their toys,” she explained one morning while sitting beneath the coffee table teaching her brother the new game she learned at school.
I drop them off Monday morning. I squeeze them extra tight, give them double hugs and kisses, and tell them, “I love you.” I take deep breaths. I linger in the parking lot until they are out of view. I say a prayer for their safety. I picture a white light around them, around the other children, and around the building. I drive away even though I don’t want to. Even though I want to run back and grab them and keep them with me another day, not caring if I look crazy, only caring that they are safe.
I go about my day. I try to keep my mind on the tasks at hand. It’s no use. I clock the hours until pick-up time, three more hours, two more hours. I try not to check my phone. I stay away from social media and the pointless debates. I do not look at the news, read the headlines, or listen to the chatter of strangers concerning reform, associations, and administrations. “I’m a mom!” I want to scream. “How am I supposed to send my kids to school? How am I supposed to pretend everything is okay and keep going?” I eat my lunch and try not to cry.
One more hour to go. No more chores left to do. No more errands on the list. I feel lost, like a wind up toy left bumping into the wall. I bide my time until they are safe within sight once more. Pick up time finally arrives. I see flashing blue lights in the distance and my heart lands cold at my feet. A routine traffic stop. I scoop my heart back up and tell it we are okay, but my heart knows I am only pretending it’s true.
All is well at the school, no signs of chaos or distress. The faces of the other parents appear calm. Am I the only one who feels this way? Maybe they’re just better at pretending. I pick my children up. I exhale… a little. I smile at them, and ask them about their day. I think its working. I think they believe me.
We go to the store. We go to gymnastics. Keep up the usual routine, that’s what we’re all suppose to do right? Finally, we go home. I exhale all the way.
I made it through today. I will not think about tomorrow. I will not think about all the tomorrows after that. We made it safely through today. We will get through the next day.
We will get through every day pretending that it’s all okay until the time hopefully arrives that none of us have to pretend any longer.
D.J. Kramer is a New York transplant currently residing in New Hampshire and pursuing a career as a writer of novels, short stories, and memoir while raising two children, three dogs, and trying to convince her husband to move the family somewhere warmer. Website: www.djkramerwrites.com Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/djkramerwrites/