'MOM?! THIS IS NOT A DRILL! WE HAD TO EVACUATE THE BUILDING!'
My eyes barely scanned this message when my phone lit up with her name and I answered.
She was running.
I could hear kids screaming in the background.
"Mom?!? Mom I'm scared! They told us to run for the forest!"
I started running back to my office from where I had just been handling an issue for a customer with my routing team. The tone in her voice spurring me towards my keys.
"What's going on?!"
Iris's reception was bad. "The principal---Not a dr----gun??--what's going on mom?!"
"I'm on my way!"
She cut out.
Do you know what that feels like? Do you know how quickly your mind can cycle the sweet face of your child before your eyes, her every tumultuous and every joyous moment?
Let me tell you. It's fast.
Last night Iris was upset at me.
She is in a play at school and rehearsals run until 6pm Monday thru Thursday. Most nights, I can accommodate picking her up from school. Most Wednesday's and Thursday's I am far from home by 5:30.
On my designated Wednesday's her father picks her up for me and I pick her up from him on my way home. On my Thursday's I was going to have to pick her up a whole hour early from practice.
Obviously I was ruining her life and role as Simba.
One does not cross the King over measly things like life and responsibilities.
As I stepped out of the bathroom after my shower, she confronted me:
"Mom. I need to get something off my chest. I cannot rest until I do."
I apparently cannot get dressed until then either so I wrapped my towel tighter and nodded for her to go ahead.
"I cannot miss rehear----"
She paused ever so slightly and I could see the tiny readjustment going on in her tween head as she made a slight pivot in her argument slightly too late.
"--- I miss spending time with you. We're always busy and rushing about and I don't get lazy days with you anymore."
"Yea? And what days were you thinking you'd like to hang out besides the weekends?"
"Um. Like... Wednesday's and Thursday's...."
Ah. Hello teenage manipulation. I was wondering where you were.
The last time I vividly remember adrenaline coursing through my veins like it was replacing every red blood cell, I was staring at the headlights of the car about to impact me and change the course of my life forever.
If I remember A&P correctly, adrenaline is an accelerator for fight or flight reactions.
I don't think my body remembers that part of science because much like in my car accident, everything slowed down.
As I ran for my car I felt like I was running through jello. I was fainting I think. I wouldn't know for sure as I've never done it. But my mind was not racing. It was analyzing every next step and guiding me there safely.
I reached my car and while driving out I tried Iris's phone again.
Straight to voicemail. 4 times.
I try again.
"Hello?! It's me mom!"
Those words! Oh those words!
"Where are you?! Are you ok?!"
"Mom please. Hurry. We're being told to go through the forest to Aeva's school! Please! Please come!"
"I'm coming! I'm almost there!!"
I wasn't. Truth of the matter I was still far. Truer still? I had no idea what the hell to tell her or what to do except be there right now.
That's all I've ever done for my kids: be there in whatever capacity they need and want from me.
Move across the country. Get a job. Get two jobs. Make it to all events. Smile. Throw epic birthdays. Bring the clarinet. Bring the clarinet again. Pay for all the activities. Play nice. Make all the costumes in the damn play. Get up early, go to bed late. Be fun. Be serious. Be selfless. Be here now.
So naturally when I didn't tell Iris I would figure out a way to make sure she was there that last CRUCIAL hour at rehearsal every OTHER Thursday that I had her... She reeled.
How dare I?
No seriously. How dare I?...
As she laid in bed crying for me to hear, mumbling whole sobbing sentences because I had ended the conversations and her ploy to mask Broadway aspirations under quality time with mom.... I wondered if I knew what I was doing. Was I doing what was best for us? Or just simply what I wanted for myself? Dare I choose my own agenda first this one time? How far from my mark was I really?
"Stay with me baby. Stay calm ok?"
"I'm scared mom!"
"It's ok. It will all be ok. No matter what. No matter where you are or where you run to I will find you. Ok? You know where safety is. You go there. I will find you."
I was the first parent to arrive on scene besides those that had been there prior to the threat as was apparent from the visitor badges on their shirts.
I parked my car far. In sight of all the officers and administrators lining the school entrance. Walking up the middle of the road, I was watched.
The school secretary called out for me to stop.
"My daughter is out there. I know I can't go in. Can you tell me what's going on? Can I wait here and see her after?"
It's not what my panicked heart wanted to say but it's what my brain, jogging through jello, knew was right to ask.
Sometimes you can't be the hero. Sometimes you can't do what you want.
Sometimes you have to let others do their job and not get in the way.
Two hours I stood outside the school with an officer who could see the panic I was trying so hard to conceal. I traded texts back and forth with Iris who was somewhere on the far side of the school in the tree line between the junior high and elementary school. I could see the specks of trees and children. I knew the teacher that was placing herself between the school and the children.
'Is Aeva ok mom? Did you go check on her?'
'Yes. I called the school. They're safe.'
I heard the all clear come through the officer's radio and he smiled at me.
I started for the school but was met by a teacher. Ms. Reynolds, one of the two Lion King production teachers.
She hugged me. I told Ms. Reynolds about my argument with Iris while we waited for the office to call her up.
"I see you. I see what you do for her. You're always there. But you need to start stepping back. An hour will not harm her. You have a life too and she needs to learn that. She's not used to it but it's important. You have to take care of you too. I'll have her ready by 5."
Today there was a gun/bomb threat at the school. The details are still not certain nor released and I couldn't care.
I stood outside the police perimeter for two hours because the only thing I cared about was seeing her face, in real life, telling me she's ok.
An hour after I saw Iris safe and sound, Aeva fell and skinned her knee pretty badly. The nurse down played the incident and I thought nothing of it until I saw the jagged wound still bleeding through the fully torn knee of Aeva's uniform pants. My momma guilt felt at its highest. While I made it to one child, the other got hurt. Sometimes I'm not sure I'm doing my job right. Sometimes I feel so far from where I think I am.
Yet isn't that how it goes?
How dare I think I can always control risks? Outcomes?
You think you've been doing the right thing all along but like Jon Snow, you know nothing.
Aeva was delayed first aid an hour and yet her knee didn't suffer for it as she romped around the living room with her two newest best friends.
Iris will not suffer for the hour she will lose from rehearsal as we spent that hour cooking together and figuring out Math homework.
I never ever want to be reminded of my children's precious lives again in this frantic way.
There is no way to protect them through and through. No way to mitigate every single threat possible and impossible.
My life paused today. It brushed such a large fear in my world as a mother.
That pause made a difference for Iris and I. Funny how much difference a pause can make.
Iris's face broke through the crowd of middle schoolers rushing to classes and she buried it in my neck:
"I'm so sorry momma. I'm so sorry I was selfish. I was so scared!"
"Hello baby. It's me, mom."