That Call

May 1, 2013


You know the day is coming. I mean, it doesn’t take much to look around and see what is going on in the world, in the country, to know you’re going to get that call.  If your kid is at a Jewish day school, the likelihood of that call is exponentially greater.

And then one day, you get it. “[Temple name redacted] has received a bomb threat for Thursday May 2, 2013.”  You try to listen to the details, the measured tone of the Head of School in the phone, you listen for sign posts, for moments you can chain reality to, because for all the times you anticipate this call, it just isn’t how it goes in your head.

You hear it’s for tomorrow, but you’re sitting in carpool line today. You hear the police, the FBI, the bomb squads are here, there are meetings and checks and everything is being done… and then you look at the clock and realize you still have 18 minutes before school is out.

You try to reason for a moment. Eighteen minutes. Okay. There are authorities in the building. You see the police cars circling the parking lot – that’s good.

You call your Husband. Did he – yes, he got the message, too. Should you go in and get him out of class now? It’s only … sixteen minutes more. It should be fine. You’ll call when you have him and on the way home. Okay. A decision.

In your head you pretend to be the Bad Guys and discover it’s not as hard as you’d imagine. If you were the Bad Guys, and you really wanted to make a point, you’d tell them it’s tomorrow, but do it at a time of maximum impact. Like pickup time when parents and kids are there all at once.

Fifteen minutes. Without thinking you pick up the phone to call, oh… No. Can’t. Right.

How is it still fifteen minutes?

Okay, you change your mind. That clock is ticking entirely too loudly and too slowly and if something really does happen you will never forgive yourself for not being in there trying to get him.

You get out of the carpool line and park far away from the building partly on purpose and partly because it’s starting to get crowded as the information spreads. You watch like a g-ddamned FBI agent for the slightest oddity. You memorize odd license plates on cars you don’t recognize. That kid Security stops because he has no badge, you memorize his face all the way down to his acne scars pattern.

You get to the school office and it’s not quite mayhem, but there is certainly something going on. It’s crowded and noisy, but you only hear your breathing in your ears. Your back pain that has kept you from being nimble is completely gone thanks to adrenaline and you know, at a millisecond’s notice you could do whatever you needed to – however you needed to – but right now the look on your face tells the assistant behind the desk that your kid needs to materialize up front right now.

“Is he lined up for carpool yet?”

“No. They are still in class. We’re asking that no one go down the halls and cause any concern…”

“Fine. I understand. Please have him come up here.”

He sees you, and all the people in the lobby and looks confused. He wrinkles his brow, but takes your hand and tells you about the Art Award he won and you act like that is the greatest thing that has ever happened because it IS as you walk faster than normal out the doors, across the parking lot and to your car.

His little hand feels so little. Is it really this little? You grip it a little tighter while you scan the other buildings and the parking lot. In the car he goes and you watch him get buckled. He sits in his carseat and turns to look at you and you lock eyes for just a heartbeat longer this time and force yourself to smile, making sure it reaches your eyes, as you close the door. You should win a fucking Oscar for your performance.

You don’t exhale until you are on the street, blocks from the building. Your muscles don’t stop flexing until you walk into the house. You don’t feel the adrenaline leave your body until you are in the tub at 7pm shaking just a little. You realized you never cried and you don’t need to.

You realize this day could have gone so very differently, and you are thankful it didn’t. But you wonder if, one day, it might.

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4 Responses to “That Call”

  1. Sarah H Says:

    Pammer, I’m so very sorry.

    • pamlewis Says:

      Thank you, my friend – we continue to hope for the best. What else can we do, right? 🙂

  2. Susan Bogart Sweet Says:

    Your blogs are AMAZING! You are such a great writer. I remember you from Dobie and I wish we kept in touch better. And I always forget how we are related! Anyway, nice to get to “know” you again through all this Internet stuff.
    I can tell you are such a great mom.

    • pamlewis Says:

      Susan, you are so sweet! Thank you. It’s always nice to find out that old acquaintances are now new family members!