I get to take my daughters to school. Today, it's Monday December 17th. I get to take them, my four-year-old and my eight-year-old, to our little elementary school up the street, but I don't want to. Not today.
I get to rush around as usual, making more toast and cutting Eggo waffles just right for dipping into syrup. I get to listen to fighting over who is touching who. I get to hear Lucy fret about pajama day today, as her class won enough points to have storytime and hot cocoa with her school principal. What if I'm the only one who remembered to wear pjs? she worried. Alice won't get dressed. She finally picks out a white cotton dress with red chili peppers on it and pink striped tights. She is too slow, so Daddy starts yelling. Not today, I say. Please no yelling.
I get to argue about what shoes to wear with Alice, who hates shoes. We search the house, the car, her room for her favorite black sneakers but cannot find them. It's approaching 9am. The school bell rings in ten minutes, signaling the day. She cries. I get frustrated.
We get out the door and Alice is tearful. Her shoes feel weird. There are rocks in them, she's certain. We hold hands. Lucy starts complaining that her tummy hurts and she just can't go. She's probably sick, she says. I get to assure her it's just nerves, or she's hungry for more breakfast. Once she eats at school and sees others in their pjs, she'll be fine. Alice wants me to stay at school with her. She's timid on Mondays. This Monday, so am I.
The bell rings. I watch Lucy skip away to her classmates, neatly lined up in their pajamas. Whew. I take Alice into her preschool room. She tells me her nose is chapped (it is) and that her flu shot from yesterday hurts her upper arm (it does). I help her pick out Christmas coloring pages with her teacher. We talk about what lunch she'll choose. The options are soft tacos or fish sandwiches and she likes neither. It's okay, I tell her. Just eat what you like best off your plate. I'll pick you up in time for dance class, I tell her. I get to kiss her warm cheek before I leave.
I stand outside the now quiet schoolyard. The gates are locked now, as always. The routine is the same, but we are not. My coffee gets cold as I stare too long into the snowy foothills and gray sky. My eyes are wet, as they have been for three days now. What is new is the pit in my stomach, the bile rising in my throat. I feel like I might puke. Even though I get to pick them up after school with hugs. I get to frost sugar cookies tonight with my girls. I get to be irritated about the mess the kitchen will become as a result. I get to.