Untitled - Rebecca Jan Lane

KerinsNaumov 2018 
1441 words

Our daughter Molly is ten years old.   This is her first year in a bricks and mortar school.  Up until this year, she has been home, my shadow, brilliant mind, helper.  She is too smart for most people.  She quotes Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter like some kids quote Pokemon statistics.  She rattles off historical facts and stories, and speaks with a vocabulary above some adults.  She is teaching herself Korean and German so she can talk to her uncle who lives in Coburg, and our neighbor from Korea.   She is a fireball, who is kind, and spunky, and fiercely devoted to her family and friends.   She wants to be a veterinarian, and open a rescue and hospital devoted to bats.   Each day before she gets on the school bus (after she has given me a kiss and a hug)  she gives our black Newfoundland dog Rez a hug and kiss and asks me to take care of the stumpy tailed farm cat Pudding, and to feed her two goldfish named Little Monarch and Little Swallowtail.  Then she treks up to the bus, her backpack almost folding her over because of the books she takes out from the school library, and waves to me from her seat as the bus pulls away.  
We live in a small town.  People still know each other.  There’s a handful of traffic lights, one high school, one middle school and a few elementary schools to serve the county.    Farm tractors travel from farm to farm  and field to field on the highway with their hazard lights blinking and bright orange triangles on the back of the hay wagons.  It could almost be idyllic, quintessential, small town America.      
My husband and I had discussed our education options for Molly.  Did we want to homeschool her, or use the cyber school route, or did we want to use the local public school?  Private schools were out of the question due to distance and tuition costs.  We had time really; because Molly wouldn’t turn five years old until December, she missed the September  1st cut off.  So she would be an ‘old’ kindergartner.  
I had a long list of reasons to keep her home,  and to not send her to local public school.    She is so smart, I said.  Bullies, I said.  Long bus rides to and from school.  A terrible superintendent, and awful teachers.   Anything to keep her out of the local public school.  She’s busy and smart, like a border-collie, I said, if she’s bored she will occupy herself.  (Border-collies are notorious for occupying themselves when bored.  They may occupy themselves by tearing apart your sofa, or destroying your shoes, or dismantling anything they can get their jaws on.)    Could the teachers really handle her?  Or would they just label her as a trouble maker? 
After many long conversations, some heated, some not so much, we decided to send her to the local public school.  We had time we knew when we made the decision.  Like I said, she would be an old kindergartner.  
And then Sandy Hook happened.  A mentally sick young man, after shooting his mother to death,  walked into an elementary school and opened fire, killing twenty children between the ages of six and seven years old, and six adults. It took a total of five minutes.   As authorities arrived, the shooter committed suicide. 
It was Christmas time.  There were likely already trees up, and presents stashed away from the kids to be wrapped on Christmas Eve.  And now, twenty children and six adults would not be opening presents.  Instead there would be funerals to attend, and rows of tiny coffins.
Like everyone else those weeks, I held our daughter closer.  I hugged her tighter.  I prayed for the families, I prayed for us, and I prayed for the schools.  And I quietly thanked God for cyber schooling.  
We enrolled Molly as a cyber schooler the following September.   She thrived for the most part, loving that she could move at her own pace, and tailor her lessons to her needs and interests.  But eventually, for lack of a better term, she grew out of it.  Cyber school no longer served her well, and it became a source of strife in our family.    Five years later, when she would be going into fourth grade, after many meetings with the local elementary school principal, the new superintendent, and a tour of the school,  we enrolled Molly in the local public school. She was thrilled.  That was in September of 2017.
Since Sandy Hook in 2012, there have been countless shootings, school or otherwise.  There was the attack at the club Pulse in Orlando.  There was a shooting at a country western festival in Las Vegas.  There was a shooting in Washington DC on a group of senators playing baseball.  This past year, there was a shooting at our local grocery store (we had three in town).    The flags have flown at half mast each time, a silent show that something was wrong.  And each time our daughter notices and asks what happened.
On Valentine’s Day, 2018, there was another shooting; this time it was Parkland, Florida.  Seventeen people were killed, fourteen more were injured.  The shooter was a former student, someone that everyone knew and recognized.  He likely knew the names of the people who he shot.    The shooting lasted six minutes.  He escaped by blending in with the fleeing students.  Then he walked to a nearby WalMart, bought a drink from the instore Subway, after which he made his way to a nearby McDonalds, loitered, and then walked off.  He was arrested at 3:40pm.  
During the shooting, students recorded desperate pleas on their cell phones, begging for  gun control, texting their family, warning their parents to stay away because of the danger.  
So I have another shooting to explain to our daughter, explain it in age appropriate terms.  She looked for the flags at half mast again.  
  Then, that Sunday February 18, there was a threat made on our church.  It was a comment about going into the main mass and shooting everyone up.  The person had enough of a history for it to be taken seriously.   Police cruisers were in the parking lot.  Members of the congregation stood guard at the doors.  My husband texted us from church and (truthfully) told us that the roads were bad and that we shouldn’t come that day, so we stayed home.  He didn’t tell me until later the other reason he wanted us to stay home.
That night as we sat on the couch, holding tightly to each other, shell shocked and aching for closeness, a phone call came.   It was a robo call from the school superintendent.  
	“The posts don’t appear to outright threaten violence, however Tunkhannock Area School District officials met with law enforcement to devise a response and said they do not believe there is any imminent threat to students or staff. We’ll continue to collaborate with law enforcement and the district attorney’s office to improve and fortify our response to any threats. The decision to send your child to school tomorrow is yours, but please know that we are making every effort to keep every child safe.”
	We kept her home.  My heart raced most of the day.  I held her tighter, kissed her head more,  and blinked back the tears.  Nothing had happened.  She was safe at home.  But  it was for the what could happen, the what was happening, for the world that she must maneuver in now.  
	“Momma, you know I’d be safe at school.  We have lock down drills.  They’re kind of fun, really.  It’s like playing a huge game of hide and seek.   I know to hide and be quiet.”  She hides behind the computer desk if there’s not enough room in the class bathrooms.  She wants to be able to see what’s going on.  But what will she see this little girl of mine?  
	Then, come Tuesday, she was back to school.  The person that made the threats was arrested.  Another young person was taken from the high school in handcuffs.  The police now walk the halls of the schools, an obvious presence.  
	She came home smiles and kisses for the dog, her sister, and me.  She told me about her classes, and playing outside during recess.  She asked for playdates with some of her friends before they move away.  Her eyes shone with joy, light, and love.
	I smiled with her, for her, and because of her, for her light she shines in this world, this fierce girl of ours.