By Lillian Michelle
Elizabeth went back to school today and she could not have been more excited. She started unbuckling as soon as we pulled in the parking lot and got in line. Then, squealing with delight, she crawled up to the front passenger seat to wait for her turn to get out of the car.
As she gathered her box of supplies, I gave her a quick reminder about where things were located in her backpack and some new things to expect in the school building.
You see, she actually already started school, we already met her teacher, and she has already completed assignments, but it all happened at our kitchen table. I think we all know why today is hugely different from previous “first day of school” mornings. We also know why her return to an in-classroom setting is extraordinarily delayed. It is because of COVID-19.
Some of the supplies she needed to return today were normal items like crayons and scissors, but this year masks and hand sanitizer are required as well.
We pulled around the initial curve of the drop-off line and up to the first checkpoint. The PE teacher was manning that one by taking temperatures with a thermal scanner thermometer. Elizabeth’s temperature read “normal” at 97.8°.
“Don’t forget that if you have a boogie nose then you may need a fresh mask. Those are here, in the front pocket. See?” She nodded at me as she rolled her window down. The child then turned away and proceeded to dangle her white, curl-covered head into the frosty morning air whilst she waved at all the people.
Most of whom, I will point out, were people that we do not know. Most of these unknown people, I will also point out, waved back. There was one lady who did not wave back. She was, however, still in her bathrobe and I am not sure she was totally present in the moment. I will cut her a pass because she probably did not get her coffee yet either. Poor thing. I’ve been there.
The next curve of the line exposed the second and final checkpoint where kind looking teachers were lined up on the sidewalk greeting children and parents with a list of health and exposure questions.
“I sure do love you. I think I might miss you today while you are at school. May I have an extra hug for my tank to get me by until you come home?” I asked. Elizabeth wrapped her arms around my neck and said, “You will be ok, Mommy. We gotta do this. I love you.”
How is my child so wise? I have dreaded this whole business of in-person learning for months. It has given me anxiety. Weighing the pros and cons of sending her back during a pandemic has been an atrocious task. I have tried not to convey this much to her but she is a pretty smart cookie to be only six years old.
We do “gotta do” this. She is right. We have been challenged before and prevailed. Why not this and why not now?
Elizabeth and I finally reached the front of the line where we answered our health questions and she hopped out. She shot me a quick grin from behind her mask before I watched her prance down the sidewalk and into the school building. She honored me with her resilience every step of the way. Today was a good day. – LM