Duck and Cover and Always Kiss Your Brother*

(Originally published in 2012)

Zoe slips happily into my car minutes after the bell rings on Friday.

She seems in a good mood, so I exhale a little bit. She turns off the radio (she always does this to me), tells me she's hungry (again, the usual) and then says, "Ask me about my day. Ask me."

I'm trying to merge with three lanes of parents also escaping school parking lot madness; a girl holding a balloon walks in front of me just as I was about to quickly pull out. Yikes.

This afterschool dash of kids and cars is craziness and trying to navigate my way in is taking up a solid part of my brain making me unable to really wholeheartedly listen to my daughter, but I'm concentrating too hard to explain myself.

I miss my cue, then, to ask about her day, but do find my timing to pull out.

She repeats herself. "Ask me about my day."

I do.

She launches into it.

I won't even try to capture her exact words but it went like this.

At school they had a Code Red Drill, meaning there was an armed intruder.

The teacher locked the classroom door, turned off the lights and told the kids to get under their desks.

Two taller boys hid in corners; I think Zoe ended up under her teacher's desk.

Then they heard a bang and jiggle at the door like someone was trying to break in.

A girl in the class screamed and cried.

Zoe finished her story and admitted she'd been freaked out and maybe sobbed a little. Her teacher was a hero and overall they learned what to do.

I sit there dumbstruck.

 Zoe thinks I'm concentrating on traffic but I'm not.

I'm processing this horrific scenario of my daughter scared crying worrying about being shot by a faceless angry intruder instead of acing her test.

I don't know what to say. I don't. I wish I'd been warned, I wish I could have prepared her, but I let that go.

I tell her all about Burt the Turtle, and how children in the 1950s were terrorized by impending violence that never arrived.


After we pick up Zack from his school and he is settled into the backseat, Zoe launches on him.

Ask me what happened at school, ask me. 

He blinks his eyes, he looks sweaty and happy and he seems to remember something and starts digging in his backpack.

" Zack! Ask me about my DAY!" she commands and then he does so she repeats herself and then tells him the entire story she told me.
She finishes her story with how the teacher hugged her and everything was OK and then "Zack! Why are you crying?!"

I hear a sniff and another sniff from the backseat. Zoe turns all the way around to hold his hand. "What's wrong?"

"WAHHHHH. I didn't kiss you goodbye this morning!" he wails.

Zoe laughs.

"Aw that's nice. Write about that mom," she commands and then Zack stops crying and sniffs and says "Yes Mom, write about this so everyone else remembers."