Bzzzzzz click! and the door's unlocked. Every time you have to get buzzed through a school door there's a fleeting moment of gratitude there's something between the kids and the monsters, and a dash of anger that the monsters exist.
By monsters, of course, we mean human beings whose brains are so roiling they forsake all goodness and commit what we used to call "unspeakable acts," until we were required to speak of them with appalling regularity. But monsters nonetheless.
Click! and the door shuts behind you, and it's off to the office to declare your intentions. Someone's sick and needs to go home: that's as bad as it gets. Most of the time.
Your kid shuffles out, green with some kid-grippe or pale with a cold, and however old she is, you see the kid you put on a bus the first day of kindergarten, trusting the world to take them away and bring them home. It didn't seem too much to ask.
That first day, you didn't breathe until they came back. Years later, and it's 10 minutes past the time when you should hear the gate open signaling a return home, and for a moment you feel a little sluice of dread -- but no, there's the click of the latch, and you relax. Until the next time.
A few years ago I was home in Fargo in the summer, and I drove past my old elementary school, McKinley. (We were all surprised to learn that it was named after a president who was shot.) The front door was open, the building was empty: renovations in progress, no classes. I went to the office to explain myself, but there wasn't anyone in. Went down the hall to the kindergarten room, which holds some of my earliest memories: the cloakroom with the close, musty-coat aroma; the impossibly small chairs with their faux-wood desktops; the window out which you'd see the cold autumn rain and feel cozy and safe.
But even when you're 5, you know there are monsters. Your parents tell you otherwise, but there's something in their voice. Oh, they know.
When I was writing this Friday afternoon my daughter texted me: can U pick me up don't want to take the bus today.
Yes. And then we'll talk about typing "U" instead of you, young lady.
After the hugs.
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