Posted by Debra Solomon Baker on January 17, 2013
When the phone rings at 6:30 on a Thursday morning in January, I expect the beauty of a snow day. I expect a day where we lounge in our feety pajamas watching some movie on Netflix about a sports player who defeats odds, you know, like Rudy or Rocky or somebody, where we drink hot cocoa with mini marshmallows that melt too quickly, where we pull on our silly, too-tight snow pants and our pom-pom hats and our waterproof gloves and roll around making angels, where we romp with Hooch and throw snowballs at him and giggle when he gets snow on his snout.
When the phone rings at 6:30 on a school day, I don’t expect to hear the voice of my kids’ superintendent announcing that there has been a “broad threat” to the school district, that we shouldn’t worry because there will be extra police officers at school, that they are taking so-called “added measures” for security. I don’t expect to have to go stand beside my twelve-year-old son’s bed, look at his sleepy body wrapped up in his Cardinals fleece blanket and explain to him that, yes, he will go to school this morning, that, yes, he will be safe.
I don’t expect to learn that some sick bastard has posted a photograph on Instagram of the Newtown murderer with some photos of my son’s peers and some passive threat, like, “You can’t stop me.”
Right. They can’t stop him. Nobody can. He can go to his local Walmart right now and get himself a Sig Sauer M400, complete with prismatic scope, whatever the hell that is. Or, he can buy himself a tri-star-triraptor- 12GA-28 Semi-Automatic Shotgun. Or a dozen other beauties. There is no shortage of variety.
God bless America.
I think back to the afternoon of the Newtown shootings, and how I headed home and asked my boy if he wanted to talk about what had happened.
“No, Mom,” he said. “I already know what happened.”
“Well, I know that you know, Buddy, but is there anything that you want to, you know, talk about?”
“Nah,” he replied. “I figure that I’m safe because all of my classes are in the way back corner of the building. Even Spanish class.”
I just squeeze his shoulder and pretend to agree. Classic parenting, I suppose. Maybe.
And then I think back to last Thursday and how my students imagined piling into the closet, the closet where I store the old blue and pink pillows I bought years ago for when we had silent reading time, yes, they imagined piling into the closet. To hide.
And they imagined cramming into the cabinets, the cabinets where I store the collection of poetry books that I will pull out in April, the cabinets where 84 copies of To Kill a Mockingbird wait for next week’s unearthing.
“If there’s really an intruder, Ms. Baker, can we dump all the books out and climb inside those?”
Yes. Those would be the perfect size for your thirteen-year-old frames, I think. I try to bury my imagination, to suffocate it.
I remember how they had wanted me to lock the door, to yank down the blinds, to assure them that the glass would, somehow protect them, even though we all knew that was a damn lie.
There we were, in the middle of the first intruder drill since the Newtown shootings. And they wanted me to tell them that if they were peeing or texting or doing whatever they do when they ask to use the bathroom, that they could run back to the classroom, that they could join us here, squashed in the corner of the classroom, even when the official directions say to stay in the bathroom, alone, to push all of your weight against the door.
They wanted to know why I’d been directed to slip a green card under the classroom door, into the hallway, a green, everyone-is-safe-in-here card, because, Ms. Baker wouldn’t he then know we’re in here? What’s the point, Ms. Baker, of huddling in the corner, away from the windows and doors, what’s the point of staying quiet, if you’re just gonna announce with that green card that the lambs are in here, waiting for their slaughter?
I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.
And I’m sorry.
I’m sorry that you must plan hiding spots in this warped game of Hide And Seek, that you must mentally measure cabinets and closets, that you must know that huddling in the corner won’t really bring safety.
Let’s hope that tomorrow, if the phone rings at 6:30 am, we can all spend our mornings lugging sleds up Art Hill for some good, old-fashioned childhood.
Yes, childhood. Remember that?