Laurel's school was on lockdown at dismissal time yesterday and the police situation (which was around the block and had nothing to do with the school) wasn't resolved for some two and a half hours. Of course I had taken the bus over there and it started snowing and I had no snacks and only one diaper because the plan was to grab her quick and get home to our warm house.

Marko gets a piano lesson
while we wait for Laurel.
Plans. I rarely make them, and this is why.

But grace surrounded us. After we stood there for a while, as other parents arrived and squinted at the hand-written note taped to the side door, it became clear that waiting outside may not be a good idea, especially for those of us with younger children in tow. First of all, it was snowing harder all the time and I had deliberately left Marko's mittens at home, because I am searching for the mitten clips that my Aunt Mary sent to Laurel because I know he will try to take them off and we will lose them forever. Everyone was getting a little chapped in the wind. One of the mothers suggested the church basement across the street. She had a key. A group of us marched over there together, texting as we went, because people's mothers and spouses were getting wind of the situation and inquiring about our safety. (There were a ton of police officers closing off the area, but it's not as if bullets were flying.)

The church was beautiful. We walked through a chapel, hushed by the wall to wall carpet and the dome high above. Marko and I stopped at the alter. I'm used to a dying Jesus holding prominent place in front of a chapel, but this just had a cross and a bible open to Thessalonians. It was very quiet and Marko said "shhhhh" and put his finger to his lip. Amen, I said. Amen, said Marko.

Then we went through another hallway and there was a room with a stage and a piano, and then a playroom where babies were rolling about on a carpet and toddlers were climbing on a miniature jungle gym.

A little girl stopped what she was doing and asked, "What's that boy's name?"

"Marko," I said, and she replied, "Marko. I like that."

She was four, I learned, and she made an equally complimentary remark about the name of every other child that showed up.

Then a cheerful man, who looked just slightly older than me, came in and told us to help ourselves to anything. He had to go out and pay the mechanic for his car and could someone fetch his son if this was all resolved soon? He rushed out shouting, there's grape juice in the kitchen!

He's a church elder, said one of the mothers. He seemed young to be an elder, but he was so pleasant with the little ones and happy to be able to offer his church building to us. I immediately wanted to join this church. People were just hanging around, texting and playing with the kids. Another call came from the school informing us that nothing had changed and our children were fine. Eating snacks and nobody was scared, they said.

The church elder soon returned with grocery bags. We poured milk for the little ones and stood around eating cheese and apples. It got dark. The snow stopped.

I thought about the man, barricaded inside the apartment down the street. They said he was older, and that it was dispute over an eviction. He had a shotgun and was refusing to leave. It's a changing neighborhood, property values going up. This happens a lot, said someone. Not the gun part. The eviction part.

I've never been pressed that hard by circumstance. I can't imagine clinging to our house like that. But it's cold and what if we had nowhere else to go?

Some people felt scared that their children were so close to all this police activity. They were angry at the man. Some people just felt angry at the inconvenience of it all. The angry people were mostly waiting outside. They would come inside for a moment to give a report, and then return outside to pace and badger the police officers directing traffic at the corner. A long time passed before the school called again. Eventually, everything was "resolved" and we were permitted to line up inside the school building and get our kids. Marko fell asleep on my shoulder as we walked to the bus stop together. Laurel cried because she was exhausted and confused.

The only thing to be done was to talk about it and order a pizza. M and Laurel read a book about leopards. Marko woke up briefly to eat and then went back to sleep.

Today, the neighborhood was back to normal when we approached the school, but Laurel didn't want to go in. She begged to stay home, then came up with a series of excuses. I finally negotiated her down to an early pick up, which satisfied her enough to take her coat off and join her classmates on the carpet. 


Anonymous said...

Did you ever find the mitten clips?

That must have been a little scary, but I like the way one "bad" event led to an experience of kindness and community in the church. I walked past that church everyday that I walked to Sacred Heart High School, but I never went inside. I never went inside the churches at the corners of Pacific and of Evaline near our house on Friendship either. Those were not very ecumenical days. I wonder what happened to the man with the rifle. What a privileged life I have led, never having to worry about eviction.

k said...

I did not yet find the mitten clips, or should I say, get them out, but I know exactly where they are in the attic. :)

I think the man was arrested. But nobody was hurt, other than him getting some tear gas in his eyes.