2014-09-09 - 5:06 p.m.
She walked into the new high school and really did arrive on time. After the announcements, it was then she realized she had failed to pick up the class schedule. Making her way back to the entrance foyer she then noticed the indicators to head into the cafeteria where tables were set up with Alphabetical signs over them to go find your schedule.
She went to the table with the letter of her last name to retrieve her schedule.
It was then she felt lightheaded, that feeling of faintness and sudden trembling that made her worry she could drop from low sugar. She eyed a table with food , most of which was wrapped up and noted that she knew the one PTO mom from Girl Scouts and church. She asked "Is this leftover?" Thankful to not be reprimanded as the first bell rang and others had already made their way to homeroom, she sheepishly and hungrily helped herself to a modest handful of grapes grateful the lady had responded "It was for the teachers, but help yourself."
Oh thank God that lady she knew rather well was at the table!
She ate the grapes super fast realizing that to the left of the garbage can right between where she stood, there stood the Principal talking with a parent!
She considered rushing off to the first class but as the feeling of shaking didn't yet stop she thought the grapes might not be adequate and made her way back to the table where she grabbed the one last lone piece of cake on a small paper plate. Another volunteer Mom kindly got her a fork as she told her "I know I should be going but I didn't eat and feel that low blood sugar so HAVE to eat something."
She took her first bite of the the cake and appreciatively blurted out "OH WOW! THIS is Amazing with homemade icing!"
It was a buttery chocolate icing covering a moist vanilla cake bursting with flavor that had these decadent pockets of a fudge sauce, clearly homemade by one of those moms that has time to bake and bring things to school and do things like volunteer.
She suddenly became aware also of just how hungry she was, and that in her working she actually not only skipped the last mean but had not eaten the one before.
She was also suddenly acutely self conscious and worried the parents surrounding might notice her hunger and worry whether hers was one of those food insecure households.
Truth be told this week it FELT like it was. Although yes there WAS FOOD at home, she knew the SNAP allocation had been up for review and as no letter had yet come she wasn't sure it was going to continue or be cut off. The house had been well stocked with tons of both fresh veggies (Zucchini does take forever to get rid of),as well as frozen sauce from the summer crops of tomatoes , frozen zucchini and tomatoes lasagna. She was thinking of what was in the pantry at that moment, taking a mental inventory to reassure herself she didn't LOOK like she was starving as she slowed down to savor the cake and not raise alarm IF there were actually any OBSERVANT parents or teachers around, which she highly doubted.
No it wasn't that there WAS NOT FOOD, but that it's supply was dwindling and that always just makes one more aware of it and keeps it a thought that fills the brain when she knew it would be NICE to not have to worry about. She thought how she was grateful for SNAP and really there is no need to even waste time worrying as there is also a local food pantry that has always been very generous and did deliver when there was a need. They had come to her home twice in the past and both times it felt like Christmas with the HUGE amounts of canned goods, which included some of the most incredible delicacies she never before tasted.
Her thoughts then jumped to gratitude for WEIGMAN'S having opened in the area who donated this ridiculously delicious international foods that compelled her to find recipes on line and she was grateful for the irony that if there was a need for that help again at least she knew she would suddenly be eating even more delicious and exotic culinary delights than before. It seemed the greatest act of compassion that when one does have to swallow pride and ask for help that after pushing through the shame of that someone magically appears with not only food to meet needs but such delicacies, that although outdated to avoid liability, she knew were just fantastic.
After eating the cake and tossing the plate and fork into the trashcan, unnoticed by the principal she really didn't want to meet for the first time JUST NOW, she then looked at the schedule and the MYSTERY Of the school map which made little sense to her.
After spending a little time trying to interpret the map, and not even finding any clear demarcation "YOU ARE HERE" ( Of course there Couldn't Be such... I mean one could be ANYWHERE in the building looking at that map, right?), she gave up that attempt for it to be a helpful tool and decided her typical method of walking around until she found the place she is supposed to be would have to do. IT IS in fact a foolproof method and ALWAYS WILL WORK EVENTUALLY.
She started walking and SAW THE LIBRARY.
It made HER ANGRY and also a bit fearful of this new school.
She often frequented a bookstore where she had grown fond of the older lady that owned it. She had heard the story from her, as the older lady was the grandma of one of the boys' few friends.
She also heard the story from the neighbor lady who had lived a few doors down where the teen girl that lived there had also been friends with the now dead boy. That lady said the night before his death the boy spent time there talking to him about his troubles and WHY he was so distraught.
Hearing it from her almost next door neighbor where the girl was one of the boys few friends and THEN the grandma of a teen boy at a bookstore all the way across town made her KNOW that the consistency of both stories just HAD to be true. The sources were too close to the kid and there would be no reason for THEM to lie.
The boy was shot by a cop.
YES , he was KILLED by a police officer responding to a 911 call for help who came, but when rounding the corner, was startled at the then bloody boy running toward him yielding a knife and SHOT HIM.
The boy had been suicidal. These details were shared with the public and the media who inquired at the tragic killing of a kid by a cop responding to help:
The boy was suicidal and had taken a knife to his throat. He was dripping blood as it was running down his neck and running down the street away from the home where he had been, where the mom of that house had called 911 for help. Two responding officers tragically parked their car around the corner and as turning the corner to approach the house the 911 call came from the bloody boy yielding a knife came running toward them and one cop quickly reacted with shots. The boy was dead, the other cop quickly responded by calling the Chief of Police for back up and tightly holding the wound and trying to save the boy and calling the Police Chief. The cop who took the shots reportedly just broke down himself when he realized what he had done. Within 10 minutes the Police Chief called the VA State Police to open an investigation into the shooting of this boy by the officer.
It was so very tragic.
This happened prior to widely publicized Ferguson and the identity of the officer has not been made public. That didn't really bother her as in this case it was truly a tragic accident and this cop at least had no intention of shooting a boy but seems truly did react when he was faced with a bloody person yielding a knife out of instinct in the way he knew how. YES it was a problem of POOR EMERGENCY SKILLS TRAINING, but there was no indication of either malice or any intent on the part of that office to do anything other than protect. The fact it was from all reports a tragic accident the cop himself was just broken over made her have empathy for the officer and gratitude the Police Chief did immediately follow up and there would be some accountability that officer will have to shoulder. His pain and his terrible mistake is already exposed enough to have attention called to the issue of the poor training of the police. She TRUSTED there was enough attention to THAT ISSUE and TRUSTED the Police Chief who acted appropriately in response would continue to rectify the lack of training issue. There didn't to her seem to be any added value in naming the officer and making it harder for him to face the pain and consequences he was already carrying and would continue to carry.
This is a American town where shooting of young men is not a systemic problem, so it is also understandable NOONE WANTS THEIR TOWN TO BE THE NEXT FERGUSON and have it plastered on the news with RIOTS and Then TEAR GAS AND WORSE CRIMES PERPETUATED....in the name of raising social awareness. If there is an issue ALREADY adequately raised and addressed that seems ENOUGH.
YES There was a PATTERN of failure to respond well by police to people in crisis as another person yielding a knife just months before WAS ALSO shot by a responding office! That time a distraught woman in a Cosco was shot by a responding officer , and again , while the explanation of the woman being mentally ill was just SO OBVIOULSY not adequate to justify the cops response, its feebleness had called attention to the woeful inadequate training of the officers in this area and there was NO WAY one could deny that when they hear the story circulating (which she thought WHO WOULD MAKE UP?) that one of THOSE responding officers SHOT HIS OWN FOOT and then the OTHER OFFICER actually thought the lady had fired a shot that it was Shakespearian levels of baboonery on the part of our local keystone cops which would be in a slapstick FICTIONAL COMEDY ROUTINE LAUGHABLE at their ineptitude but in life simply was the most tragic of reality of incompetence that had been exposed. Such tragedy is itself so very dramatic and SAD there is no need to rub salt into the wounds of those so very pathetically underprepared to "protect and serve". Those problems were exposed and were being addressed.
As she noted the library , she was COMPELLED To walk in their FIRST as she was ANGRY and FEARFUL that there was an EVEN BIGGER ISSUE NOT DISCUSSED that was being IGNORED in her town. One that if awareness WERE THERE COULD HAVE PREVENTED THIS BOY'S DEATH IN THE FIRST PLACE.
There STILL WAS NOT ANY PUBLIC DISCUSSION of the events that led to this boys death.
YES The boy died because an officer was poorly trained and reacted in instinct to protect himself first over protecting the boy as the officer mistakenly thought he was in harms way. The boy wanted to kill HIMSELF and WAS NOT Lunging at the officer HE WAS RUNNING AWAY FROM THE HOUSE TO AVOID SOMEONE STOPPING HIM TO AVOID anyone TRYING To HELP HIM As he was despondent and depressed and FELT AND BELIEVED HIS LIFE WORTHLESS!
WHAT UPSET her as she walked the halls of the high school was the lack of inquiry or interest in WHY that boy ended up in that state in this small town mentality in what actually was an UPPER CLASS WEALTHY American suburb located in one of the richest counties in our nation.
To chalk it up to the public explanation given that "he was depressed "
YES there was A LITTLE discussion of how there needs to be better treatment of depression and mental illness.
To frame this as a death due to mental illness made her feel an affront. It was just downright INSULTING and placed the responsibility of this boys death on his shoulders with little obligation on the part of community to help- but if there WERE ANY obligation to have helped the boy it was only being framed in the light of BETTER RECOGNIZING AND HELPING YOUTH WITH MENTAL ILLNESS.
That however was not the problem, nor the real cause of his death!
THIS BOY WAS NOT MENTALLY ILL.
It is NOT Mental illness if a child IS TOLD THEY ARE "WORTHLESS" AND BELIEVE IT.
It is not mental illness if a child loses STABILITY OF THEIR HOME, THEIR FAMILY And their support system and feels unsafe, unsecure, drifting without stability and hits a despondent state of sadness and despair!
IT IS NOT MENTAL ILNESS IF ONE FEELS LIKE THAT AFTER BEING DISOWNED BY FAMILY AND KICKED OUT OF THEIR HOME!
THE BOY WAS GAY.
So the boy was staying with a friend when he hit rock bottom and truly felt his life was worthless.
Because he was told by the people who had loved and cared for him HIS WHOLE LIFE that HE WAS WORTHLESS.
He was told by some peers HE WAS WORTHLESS.
Not perhaps per se by their words in particular, but by other as damaging words and even more damaging ACTIONS.
A gay boy in her town, who would have graduated from the high school SHE WAS NOW touring, was KILLED BECAUSE HE RECEIVED MESSAGES BOTH THERE AND IN HIS (which was HER) COMMUNITY THAT HE WAS WORTHLESS.
She entered that high school that day and couldn't really care about anything else.
She also heard of the attack of the high school principal that seemed ongoing. There were allegations the principal "bullied" teachers into changing grades of some student so they would pass. HELL if that happened in SOME schools those helicopter parents who pressured for such would be HAPPY. So the allegation of a principal bullying teachers into changing a few grades of students that would otherwise fail a class frankly just struck her as not as credible as another explanation of why there was STILL a seemingly ongoing attack of this high school principal.
Considering that EVERYONE knew the principal was gay, she wondered if it was not instead just homophobia motivating some parents to start spin against the principal.
The boy had come out as gay just recently in the same high school , in the same town, and so it made sense to her the message the same parents of her community had sent to the boy IN HIS HOME, and likely in HIS CHURCH, in HIS SCHOOL
just MIGHT be a message that was being sent to the principal as well:
"If you are GAY then you ARE NOT WELCOME HERE"
Frankly she wanted to DISPROVE this theory. She would have PREFERRED to not hear anything to VALIDATE that those messages were being sent.
However she did just recently hear a complaint uttered by a parent that "All the books in the library are pushing this gay agenda. Yeah, there are some parents offended by that"
The books on the shelf prominent for display to welcome the students were what she expected. She saw The Hunger Games, The Diary of Anne Frank, The Lord of the Rings, among others. There was not a concentration of the traditional canon of American greats, but moreso a compilation of what was clearly the most popular recently published youth fiction, most of which she had already read.
She had JUST HEARD that!
She went to the library FIRST to either confirm or deny that rumor.
That rumor was clearly debunked. It however did not make her FEEL any better, as the theory that there WERE SOME HOMOPHOBIC PARENTS IN THE COMMUNITY was clearly validated.
Soon she left the library.
She found a sign indicating the two hundreds, and headed down the hall. Someone else was late and she joked "I want to test this new school's tardy policy and see what happens when late here."
Apparently the two ladies close by standing outside one room heard as it seemed that they actually found that funny too (GOOD She thought, someone has a sense of humor and can appreciate using humor to lighten up what COULD be a stressful moment). She then noted that the number on that door was the SAME as the one she was looking for and was then actually embarrassed thinking "OH This IS the English teachers" not REALLY proud of that being her introduction.
One of the ladies was so very welcoming and KIND and offered "Let me help you! Let me see your schedule and I will help you get to where you are supposed to be"
The lady looked and said
She had been looking at the class number of the SECOND block on the schedule - figuring she missed the first one in her emergency eating of food to not faint. She had totally not realized that the first bell was for HOMEROOM so when she heard it ring earlier while eating she had not yet missed her first class into in this trial run through the schedule. She was apparently NOW Supposed to have headed to her first class. So at this point, as she made her was to what was the SECOND class she was actually now LATE for the first class.
Great way to be introduced to not one but TWO teachers on the first day of orientation!
She made her way to the first block and walked into the room late, taking a seat. She missed some question about what was going to be covered in the history class that year so picked up the book under the desk to review it as she really couldn't process what the teacher had said OR the question that had just been asked. So rather than raise her hand and ask for it to be repeated to let on that ALTHOUGH there the words just flew by too quick for her to capture, she quietly reviewed the overview in the text which did give her the same info as she caught the GIST of the question and answer. She had learned such compensation skills thorough the years and found that MOST OF THE TIME they were sufficient to get the GENERAL idea of what was going on she had just missed.
Fortunately someone she knew was there who said "Follow me" when heading to the next block, so she didn't get lost.
She was very grateful that this was the English teacher for honors English, indeed her personal favorite subject! She was further delighted that when she asked the teacher if she had any discretion in picking the books in the curriculum for the year that the teacher said "Generally the English teachers all get together and pick books with think EVERY American should read to understand who we are- books like To Kill a Mockingbird and other classics, but YES we get to all suggest our favorites and then have some discretion to decide which to use in the classroom. We have to teach certain genres, themes and skill sets, but we get to choose which books to use to achieve that"
YEAH!! That meant the class would be FUN as if the teacher likes the books they are making the kids read, she thought in her experience it always made for a more REAL CLASS! A class more ALIVE A teacher who the kids and she WANTED To listen to and learn from as the teacher then seemed more genuine.
THANK GOD for that.
She left honors English, still following the dude who walked two or three paces ahead of her never looking back as if she WERE NOT there really depending on his good mapping skills in the moment DAMN IT IRRITATED HER- How DID HE DO THAT1 HOW DID HE Know there was what seemed a shortcut from the classes in the 300 block and rather than walk back the way they had come in to the main foyer and then find the 300 block of classed you could just TURN A CORNER and there the next class was! She thought "HE HASN'T BEEN HER BEFORE EITHER!" and cursed his skills that she would never have while also now finding herself relying on them , secretly grateful.
There was there some confusion on her part about filling out some form needed. She did get it done .
Next she followed the dude to the music class where she was happy to meet the teacher. " AHHH!" A spot of lightness and joy in the place which she knew she just might otherwise have major anxiety in even entering. You see SHE KNEW what it felt like to be different at school. SHE KNEW What if felt like to be SYSTEMATICALLY BULLIED AT SCHOOL. She knew the feel of being that kid that never knew where she was supposed to be, and getting confused and lost to have someone say "let me help you" and then give her directions to be somewhere ELSE WITH MEAN INTENTION . She never caught onto the snickers and even knew she was teased until much later... in fact it was YEARS LATER when she finally understood she had been the brunt of school girls meanness for YEARS. She was at least thankful for the depth of her lack of attention and strength of her internal imagination that helped her to NOT BE AWARE Of such for a time at least. The thing is, she was recently awakened into this awareness and for the first time she had ANXIETY at the though of even having to enter a school building in THIS SCHOOL SYSTEM.
The bright spot of joy of music class ended.
At this point the dude she was following was not on the same schedule for the day that she had.
She was relieved to not have to follow him frankly,
So she was on her own.
She looked at the schedule and it read "Algebra" as the next class she was supposed to enter on this orientation introduction day.
There was only three minutes given between each class to get from one point to the other. Rather sure the only place she could get in three minutes was LOST, since she THEN just happened upon the THEATER room where the teacher stood and she decided to duck in there. She said " I don't care about algebra anyway" as she sat down.
Her ex husband who had just left, due to other commitments, and who she had followed as he had NO TROUBLE navigating their freshman daughter's schedule, was so strong in math anyway that she figured there was really no need for her to attempt to meet the algebra teacher.
She sat and listened to the theater teachers introduction, suppressing the urge to CRACK UP as he justified his class "this class will prepare for job interviews, with confidence and success..."
It struck her as hilarious that in this tech sector the arts could not be valued in and of themselves so the teach gave what sounded like a marketing pitch geared to this particular demographic audience.
At the end she asked if the session following, designed for the freshmen (the one she was SUPPOSED to attend) would be at all different so she should sit through twice or if it was to be identical.
The teacher said it did have a few differences so she decided to sit through his intro twice. On the second go around, she had an easier time not laughing at the marketing of a theater class for success in later life as this time he didn't use the word choice of "prepare for job interviews" but rather a more general "prepare for success in whatever one wants to do, whether it be a veterinarian ..." with the whole building confidence and learning skills for life thing.
The choice of vet did make her chuckle in this "Aristocratic" pocket of horse country! (Read the "Middleburg Mystique" which is a town CLOSE ENOUGH to get a sense of why that struck her as funny).
In this later session designed for incoming freshmen, the theater teacher said that they would be working with content made appropriate, with no cursing.
Her reaction was "WHAT THE FUCK! Are you Fucking kidding me? NO CURSING in a THEATER PROGRAM in a HIGH SCHOOL? NO cursing AT ALL? Can they even read "One flew over the Cukoo's Nest?" Can they be taught of the great plays of Tennessee Williams, Neil Simon ....?"
She sat just appalled and stunned.
Afterwards, parents were talking briefly with the teacher. They all left but one dad and his son. The boy said "you go first, we will be a while"
She said, "No really, you go first- because I am going to curse and I really don't want to offend you."
The boy and his Dad actually to her surprise and relief both laughed so she DID go ahead.
She smiled at the teacher who she KNEW WOULD not have POSSIBLY been offended at that bluntness and asked
The teacher said, "Well, there is some discretion, but yes it is based on what is deemed appropriate for the ages of the students"
I relieved said "OH THANK GOD. I mean I watched a high school production of "Tick Tick Boom" and just wondered Could you do something like that HERE? And what about things like "One Flew Over the Coo Coo's Nest and the whole CANON Of dramatic literature that I think theater students SHOULD be introduced to! "
The teacher was clearly sympathetic as he reassured "I totally understand, no I do have some discretion"
The same language she had used when asking the English teacher about the curriculum "What kind of discretion o you have regarding the books and curriculum?" She then remembered as she had uttered that she HAD ALSO WONDERED SILENTLY " Do you have to CENSOR what is allowed to be discussed in the classroom?" She wanted to know the STUDENTS could actually raise and discuss REAL LIFE ISSUES such as being gay if that was important to even one kid, such as being different and learning to navigate that if THAT was important FOR ANY REASON for any kid- whether it be gay, or being terribly ADHD, or being a child of a divorce, or being a kid in a home where your food is provide by SNAP cause your mom is unemployed and still hasn't found a job yet the unemployment insurance ran out.
She wanted to know that HER KID had a safe place to discuss and write and express about ANY WORRIES SHE MAY HAVE.
SHE KNEW that is was her son's ability to do so in HIS THEATER work which had SAVED HIM She also knew that it was her daughter's more controlled curriculum, high pressure to perform in a top high school with hypercompetitive type A Helicopter parents that WHILE A GREAT SCHOOL, she thought reminiscent of the conditions of a school like that NEIL IN "DEAD POETS SOCIETY" had been facing which let that fictional boy to feel worthless and take his own life.
She wanted her kids to live and thrive.
SHE KNEW that man she had no choice but to follow through the halls of THAT HIGH SCHOOL had called her oldest daughter "Worthless" and that her oldest had been suicidal as at some point BELIEVED IT.
She knew that SHE had been called worthless, and while SHE NEVER BELIEVED IT KNEW AT SOME POINT her younger girls IN THAT SCHOOL SYSTEM HAD and it had taken time to undo the message that THIS SCHOOL SYSTEM SENT WHEN THEY ARRESTED HER FOR THEIR TARDYS that SHE
SHE KNEW the kids not being invited to other kids houses, or other kids NOT BEING ALLOWED TO COME TO HER HOME when invited was due to that message THAT SHE IS A WORTHLESS MOTHER was one that the "GROUP THINK" made seem real to MUCH OF this community
So all those factors played in as she walked the halls of that school that Freshman Open HOuse night.
So when after the Second session from the theater teacher, she was happy she had decided to skip whatever the final two blocks were. She didn't even care about what they were, or really CARE about meeting the teachers for those just then.
For as she stood there and ONE OTHER PARENT WELCOMED HER IN THAT SCHOOL she knew she was where SHE NEEDED TO BE IN THAT MOMENT as the Dad who had lingered to talk to the theater teacher introduced himself.
It was a moment that took far too long in coming. Another parent reached out welcomingly and made her feel that someone accepted her differences.
He told her that he had pulled his son out of another high school in the county to FOLLOW the theater teacher to this school. That was because the OTHER school had not allowed full creative freedom and actually CENSORED the language used by the student writer of a play about autism.
She was therefore relieved that THIS HIGH School her daughter was now attending had accepted this theater teacher.
She said "WOW! That is unbelievable. I can empathize as I know what it is like to feel like you different. I have the distinction of being the only parent ever arrested in this county for my kids being tardy"
His reaction was something like "Rock on keep being you" or something similar. He just really immediately GOT IT in a way that astounded her.
The Dad said "Pleased to meet you, I also happen to be a first amendment lawyer."
She laughed and said "funny I am an aspirational lawyer wanna be. I just failed the WV Bar after having failed the VA Bar five times. But I will get it yet. I just need to get an accommodation to have extra time and WILL pass it. Heck that is how I get work done IN REAL LIFE. You know I think it IMPORTANT TO DEFEND MY RIGHT TO GET WORK DONE IN A 12 hour day that takes other people 8 hours. I also am a real strong advocate OF NAPS thought the day. I think we should really advocate for those! So one day, I will pass that Bar and be a kicking attorney and perhaps get on it."
He validated," YOU have a JD, you are an attorney", and she was grateful he also appreciated her humor.
She noticed another Dad in the hall laugh, and then his wife who was actually her friend come to join him.
He said "If you ever need any help, or support, just look me up."
She said thanks and left ,walking by the couple as if she hadn't seen them, because she had this question in her mind as they sort of glanced periphially in her direction and she heard them whispering and the lady she once had been friends with uttered kind of incredulously "I KNOW!", " Are they laughing AT ME or with me?" but getting the sense , as they had not straightforward looked at her either to acknowledge her presence that her former friend was actually in the moment chuckling with her hubby and actually laughing AT HER.
It didn't matter.
For the first time in a LCPS she had talked to someone who she Knew was NOT laughing at her, and who she KNEW ACTUALLY SAW HER, and in that moment, that was what mattered.