So, I called Norm after school today and grilled him about his day as is our routine. He told me about lunch and the procuring of some hashbrowns as snack. He talked about drawing a branch for brown day. Then, he proceeded to tell me why today was such a “special day”. He then described how “a long lot of years ago some bad guys crashed into some skyscrapers and some big tall buidings with their planes and lots and lots of people died. People on planes died and lots of other people died too.” Oh? When did you hear about this buddy? “When we first got to school we had to be quiet. Because they died and its very sad.” Was your teacher talking about it? “No just the principal. When we first got there because it happened when we got there.” (Did I miss the fucking “prep your five year old for 9/11 reality check?” Nope. Double checked. No memo.) And what did you think about this buddy? “Well. It kind of freaked me out. Did you know people that died mommy?” WEll no buddy. It happened very far away. “Well if all those people died how come you didnt know nobody” (I relate a few stories about people we know and care about losing loved ones in 9/11)”Hmmmm…Ill bet their mommies are dead too. And there daddies are dead. Right mom?” Well not necessarily buddy. Lots of people were grown ups who didnt live with their mommies and daddies. (Mentally I am psyching myself up into professional calm reasonable crse for my next call which is to the principal asking for a debriefing on what was said and offering my sincerest thank you for opening this little metaphysical can of worms as a surprise for our family. Is this your idea of the welcome wagon?) Norm then begins to list all the death he knows about personally, from my grandmother to every last goldfish. We talk. We reflect. We mourn greenie and spottie together.
We end the conversation because he’s finished a popsicle or had some other pressing matter. I immediately call the school. I try my best to explain the situation to the secretary. She is extremely kind. She knows Norm and tries to find me someone who can help me figure out what the hell was said. I end up talking to the lunch lady. (I kid you not). (She, too, was extremely nice) I politely explain again what had just transpired with Norm and ask if she can tell me what exactly was said. Apparently, she helps herd children into the gym when they arrive at school and this is where the speech occurred. She explained that it was “patriot day” and the principal was explaining why the kids were encouraged to wear red, white, and blue. “But wait…we didnt hear anything about that…” I say. Ah…thats because it was brown day in kindergarten she explains. (Ok so you dont include them in the red, white and blue dress because you dont want to interrupt brown day for the little ones. I see. And was that decision made in the same conversation where the inclusion of a description of the massive loss of human life through an act of evil would be a good idea for the five year olds? Red white and blue…hmmm no lets not confuse them by veering off brown day. Much better to let them struggle with their first realization that the world is a cold and bitter place completely devoid of justice. Well because that wont involve new memos about color week.) Lunch Lady then confidently reassures me that the talk was not graphic and their was nothing about planes crashing or anything. It was so awkward to mention to my new friend that in fact the words “planes crashing into buildings” actually came out of my five year olds mouth. She apologizes saying that it was hard to focus because of the herding of the children.
Friends, let me interject that this was no “Operation Kiss my Ass” endeavor. I felt so bad that I was putting this sweet lunch lady in an awkward position. I then try to explain that Im only calling because it was a topic not yet introduced in the home and I really didnt want to confuse my son any more than he already appeared to be. Which led me to the next question. Friends, let me ask you this. How does one politely ask if a school speech included any mention of hope for the future or spiritual comfort? It sounds so condescending to even ask such a thing. My reason for wanting to know this is because if the speech was meant to be as stark as it sounded to impress the importance of the day, I did not want to offer some sort of comfort that the principal had already shot down as a platitude. (What kind of grown up shoots down spiritual platitudes to a five year old? Oh wait. See above.) Also, was the concept of terrorism discussed? Obviously he couldnt have said “its ok, we caught the bad guys” because the bad guy released a tape last friday. My new friend didn’t really have an answer. She gave me a few suggestions for exploring the topic with Norm. I was graciously grateful. Apologized for bothering. Thanking for understanding. Etc. Etc. Finally, she explains that the principal left for a meeting which is why I was talking to her. More apologies. More gratitude. I hang up and call Madame Fabu. Am I crazy or what the fuck just happened? We share different school stories from today involving the princess, norm, the perfect storm as well as other bizarro situations that had happened over the past eight hours. She reassures me. Im thinking ok we let this pass and see what happens.
Later that night, Norm starts a conversation while playing with his new matchbox set. “People are robbing banks somewhere in the world right now arent they mommy?” Well yes buddy, but people are helping people out there too. You need to remember that. Are you still feeling freaked out about today buddy, or are things ok for you? “Well…Im just feeling a little little bit freaked out still. (Not a lot of little bit, a little little bit)But thats ok. Because its a sad day and we got to be quiet.” It is a sad day buddy. We talk about all the people that helped out in the aftermath and talked about heroes until he interjects accusingly. “Mommy, how come you never told me about this day before?” (allowing myself a mental burst of derisive laughter) Well buddy its a very hard thing that happened and its hard to understand and we wanted to wait til you were a little older. Soon after, in the kitchen “I think we should make a cake for the people that died mommy. You know, because its such a sad day” Hmmm…cakes are always a nice expression of the hopeless void of an illogical and unjust universe. Why not? “Oh never mind mommy. Lets make the cake another day. Sponge Bob is on” Almost immediately afterward, in an alarmed yet sort of calm tone “Mom, I just felt grammy’s spirit. Can we talk to her?” Sure buddy. “Um Grammy? I miss you a very lot. And Um well…Im a little bit scared right now so maybe you could go away for a little bit. But um…you dont have to. You can stay because Im glad you are here”. He looks at me for reassurance. I just say “we miss you grammy and we love you and you would be very proud of norm because he is a wonderful little boy”. Back to sponge bob. He is a little clingier tonight than usual but so far its ok.
My bottom line? Im a little pissed that my five year old who is afraid of monsters and “bloody mary” and the goosebumps commercial on cartoon network is now pondering something vast and horrible. Im unsure because I dont know if this is exactly vast and horrible for him and I dont want to make it more so. Im guilty because I should have prepared him regardless. I knew the day was coming. Im wondering if I should prep the teachers for possible death talk tomorrow. Strangely, nothing like this occurred in any of the schools I worked in today.
Thanks for letting me process friends.