No Ordinary Monday

No Ordinary Monday

Today is Monday, the day I volunteer, the day I spend my afternoons sounding out digraphs and acting out sight words in my daughter’s second grade classroom.

But today’s not just any Monday. Today is the Monday after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The Monday twenty families begin burying their children in unbearably small coffins. The Monday I fight the urge to lock up my eight-year-old daughter, Lilla, and keep her home for the rest of her life.

Usually her dad takes her to school, but today I do the driving. Today I think the steering wheel might give me a little more control. Because clearly the world is out of it.

The school’s only four miles away, but the drive takes forever, on account of my heavy heart weighing down my mini-van. So I calm my jitters with humor, joking with my daughter who’s riding, oblivious to the latest news, in the backseat.

“What do snowmen eat for breakfast?”

“I don’t know,” she replies, “What?”

“Ice Krispies.”

She rolls her eyes and chuckles, her dimples dancing in the rear-view mirror.

A long procession of cars inches its way toward the parent drop-off on this dark, dreary morning, and the first thing greeting us is a police squad car.

“Tell me another one,” she pleads, but suddenly my heart is in my throat, my mind filled with a mix of emotions. I want to hug the police officer for being there, but the reality of why he’s there makes me want to wretch.

I park in a vacant spot, wipe tears from my eyes, and escort my daughter to the back door of the building. It takes everything in me not to squat there all day long. In fact, I wonder if part of the solution isn’t to post a few mamas at the door of every school in America.

Instead I squeeze her close, kiss her cheek, and tell her I love her a little too loud, all big no-nos according to Lilla’s rigid drop-off policy. But I do it anyway, and it’s totally worth the extra eye roll I get as she walks inside.

I meet a friend on the school’s sidewalk and we hold hands and pray. We pray for our kids, for their classmates, for all the staff and students in our small town school, and for Newtown, Connecticut, too. The principal, whose strong presence again evokes in me a mixture of relief and concern, carefully walks up to us and asks if we’re okay.

“Yes,” I reassure him. “We’re just praying for you and the kids.”

He smiles graciously and backs away, his black suit pressed and business-like but his eyes red and puffy, and I bet he hasn’t had much sleep this weekend. No doubt he’s mourning like the rest of us.

My friend and I recap what we’ve heard on the news, speculating on things that will never make any sense to anyone, and then we say our good-byes so we can go home and attempt our normal Monday routines.

For me that means waking my other two kids and hunkering down on schoolwork for the next few hours before returning to the school in the afternoon to fulfill my duties as a parent volunteer in Lilla’s class.

Unlike the ride to school earlier that morning, time flies and soon my tires find the same vacant space in the parent parking lot at the primary school. The police cruiser is gone, kids are outside playing at recess, and the atmosphere inside the building is profoundly ordinary.

I walk through the halls, hugging a few teacher-friends on my way to the second floor, and soon I enter Lilla’s classroom where twenty beaming, beautiful faces greet me.

Dylan, the cutest red-head in the class who just figured out I’m related to my daughter, blurts, “You guys have the same last name now!” Like last week, before his big epiphany, our names were somehow different.

I laugh and tease him and within seconds, I’m swept up in reading stories and reviewing vocabulary words and handing out bathroom passes. The familiar smells of dry-erase markers and pencil shavings and little boys after lunch bring me the comfort I’ve desperately needed the past few days. Only a couple times did I scan the room and scout out places to stash children in the event of a madman breaking down the door. Only a couple times did I look a child in the eyes a little too long and simply just smile. Only a couple times did I consider cleaning out my daughter’s desk so she could come home and do school there the rest of the year.

When it’s finally time for me to leave, Lilla tugs on my sleeve and quietly begs me to stay.

“What’s wrong, sweetheart?” I ask concerned, “Is everything okay?”

“Yeah,” she says. “I just really want you to stay.”

I contemplate her tempting offer, especially on today of all days, but I have to decline, citing her brother’s need for a nap and her sister’s pick-up time from a play-date quickly approaching as reasons not to stick around. I know she’s in good hands.

“Okay,” she says solemnly, and I kneel down in front of her and look deeply into her hazel-brown eyes.

“Knock, knock,” I say.

“Who’s there?” she starts to brighten.


“Snow who?”

“Snow use — I’ve forgotten my name again!”

She rolls her eyes at me for the third time today, and Dylan eagerly steps in to remind me of my last name before I say good-bye to the class and walk out the door, closing it tightly behind me.

On the way home, I smile as I think of how smoothly things went that afternoon, contrary to what I’ve seen and heard and imagined for the past 72 hours. And I thank God for Mondays, for the class and the kids and the privilege I have as a parent to pitch in and make her public school experience a great one.

And I think of next Monday – Christmas Eve – the day before we celebrate Light being born into darkness, how He showed up in the middle of the night, during the dark world of His day,  because that’s when light is best seen and most needed.

Some people are saying that we’re to blame, that this most recent atrocity has happened because we’ve kicked Him out of our schools. And I wholeheartedly disagree. God is still God. He’s still Emmanuel, God with us, and He is definitely in our schools. And I should know. I saw Him there today.

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