Wednesday, September 12, 2012

the ghost of schools past

I suppose we had never returned.  Why would we?  The day we left school behind there was no need or want to go back.  The principal making it clear there would be no reason to visit; no cooperation between school and home school.
The reason for our return now was happenstance.  We had a list of local spots to deliver our community paper, The West View, and Riley Elementary along with half a dozen other schools was on our list.  The looks from the school secretaries were priceless.  Boo trying not to giggle at the awkward plastered smiles.  You could read the head tilt :why isn't she in school?
"What will you say if someone asks you?" I asked her between stops.
 "That I am in school." She said watching the businesses of the west side of SLC drift by. 
I intentionally saved Riley for our last stop.  We pulled into the dead end street.  Instinctively I pulled into the parent parking lot, realized my error and drove closer parking in the staff area.  Boo was slow to exit the car.  Her eyes big as she stared across the asphalt to the kindergarten play yard. The black bars her little pale hands had griped so tight.  You could almost see the ghost of her five year old face squeezing between them desperately trying to be on the other side.  That was recess, my child behind bars leering out into the world she was being kept 'safe' from.  The only world she knew.  Where food was real and hot and story time was personal and soft.  A world that made sense. 
The kids in uniform playing looked indistinguishable from the kids she had gone to school with.  Honestly, I think it scared her.  I know it scared me. It reminded me I had almost made a horrible mistake- what if I had chosen to leave her there?!?!  She let me count the papers this time as she processed her thoughts and feelings.  Was she thinking about how on her first day the smell of the cafeteria caused her to throw-up and no one called me?  Or was she thinking about standing in lines, about being herded around, about being treated more like a number than a child?

We dropped off the allotted number of papers to the front office.  Just as before happy recognition of the paper.  Then the kind eyes focus on Boo, the same restrained but clearly confused smile appears.  There was nothing unique.  They didn't know her or remember her. 

We witnessed a lot of things inside those schools, kids being scolded, kids at play, pleasant smiles, dirty glances, warm greetings, bright hallways, empty libraries, and colorful art. We even learned something going to school: we don't miss school and school doesn't miss us.  
We left school and headed for the library where Boo played among the stacks and I collected books for us to read.  We didn't talk about it, we didn't need to. 

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