Shawn is usually out-of-state two days a week. On those days, it is up to me to get all four kids out the door at 7:15am to drop Jamie off at school. These mornings are typically somewhat chaotic - the only one who is consistently dressed and breakfast-fed with teeth-brushed is Jamie. The remaining four of us are usually in various stages of pajamas and I have doled out easy-to-grab morning snacks and sippy cups to tide the younger children over until we return home.
This morning was no different. I woke to my alarm and checked out the window to see what the weather looked like. We had been forewarned of a snowstorm, but no snow had come overnight. The driveway and street were clear and, equally clearly, no snow had fallen on our brown grass. I jumped into the shower and then began the wake-up-children-and-out-the-door shuffle. When I arrived at Jamie's school, I pulled up a little past the front door, which is the polite protocol at Jamie's school, so other parents can pull up behind you to drop off as well. We were running later this morning and at the school at 7:39am (they are supposed to be in by 7:40), so I was not surprised I was alone in front of the school. But I pulled up farther anyway in case another car came after me or the school bus was later as well. Jamie scrambled out of the car. I watched him go up the steep steps to the front doors, then lost sight of him as he entered the building. I rounded the corner taking my normal driving route back home.
As I neared the next intersection, though, I had an uneasy feeling. Something just crept into my mind and unsettled my stomach that something was not right. I could not pinpoint what it was, but I just didn't feel right. I have dropped Jamie off at school about twice a week for six months now, and this is the first time I have ever felt like this. As I turned right at the next set of lights to head home, I thought about driving around the block back to the front of school. I argued with myself that I was being neurotic, but I couldn't shake that "not-right" feeling. So despite feeling somewhat idiotic, I looped onto the alley-street right along Jamie's school. This street runs past the rear parking lot of the school. As I drove past, I saw that the parking lot was deserted, which is unusual. I turned in front of Jamie's school again and as I pulled in front of the building, that's when I saw him in the corner of the stairs. Not inside the building as I had thought, but tucked into a corner where I could not see him from my drop-off spot on the street, vainly ringing the school's doorbell over and over. When Jamie looked up and saw me coming out of the van, he ran down the stairs. With tears in his eyes, he said that the school was locked and no one was answering the bell. I frantically tried to figure out what I had missed. Our city was having a State Senate election that day, but I didn't remember the Monday notice saying anything about school being cancelled. Jamie's teacher's father had passed away the previous week and his funeral Mass was being held today, but I doubted the entire school would be closed for that. Another mother pulled up behind me with her two girls, but she didn't know why the school was closed either. Since there was nothing to do but go back home, I called a friend on the way home whose children also attend the school. She explained that it had been on the news that morning that most of the towns in our area had closed schools because of the impending snowstorm.
In the three years my children have been in school, never have the schools closed in case we get snow. There have been many mornings with snow on the ground where not even a delay has been called. So I did not feel silly about assuming there was school when there was no snow overnight and it was not snowing in the morning (and incidentally, it did not really start snowing until close to 2pm anyway today and didn't start to accumulate until closer to 3pm, when school would have been done, but I digress). But I still feel sick to my stomach when I think about what if I had just driven home. At drop-off, I usually see Jamie enter the building (there is always an older student on the inside who has door duty in the winter to open the door). When Jamie disappeared from my view, I assumed he had gone into the school. All I know is that our guardian angels were looking out for us today. I feel sick when I think what would Jamie have done if I truly did just leave him outside a locked building in the city? Where would he have gone? The central fire station and police department are right down the street from his school. Would a 7-year old have the wisdom to walk down there? Would he have waited on the steps in agony - scared that the door was locked and his mom had driven away - until that other mother arrived? It makes me want to throw up. I have thanked God so many times today for giving me that unease, that certainty that something wasn't right, even though I didn't know what it was. That I trusted my gut and not my brain telling me I was being stupid and turned around. That I learned an essential lesson today to be absolutely 100% positive that Jamie has walked into his school and who cares about polite protocol and pulling up to the corner and other parents being ticked off that I was parked right smack in front of the doors. I thank God that He watched over us today and kept us safe. It turned out to be a fabulous day. Not a very good beginning, but it turned out to be one of the best days we've had in a long time.