I am a local New Yorker. I am a staunch feminist. And I grew up playing lightning in a punk band on the Lower East Side.
These are three ways to tell you that I am not usually a person ruled by fear, or that anyone automatically does what he or she says.
So when Mayor Bill de Blasio said earlier in the summer that the city would return to private school in September, I didn’t really have a bone in my body that believed I would soon drop out of my seventh grade. The boy, Harper, attends his well-planned but criminally funded Lower East Side public school every morning, his inadequate ventilation and lack of outside space.
And yet here I am, crossing my sanitized fingers.
I woke up at 5:45, thinking around my brain that panicked birds were bumping into each other for more than an hour.
What if my son gets covid and is a long holler?
What if she brings it to my husband, who has a heart condition?
A friend of a mother recently said: “I would feel better to send my son down the East River with an inner tube and see what he can learn. At least he’ll be out.” And for a second I thought, “I Own An internal tube! “
We walk out the door when my son says he can’t find his mask. This is the only type we want him to wear to school, we have been told the safest. My neck feels so tight that it can just fall off like a branch and my head can fall to the floor. Which, on a positive note, will get me out of this day-to-day encounter.
I gave him a bottle of hand sanitizer to take with me, but he was wearing shorts without pockets.
We find masks on the floor through cat food.
On the street, I frowned at the gray sky and my phone, which promised me that it would not rain today. I told Harper he had to have lunch in the school yard because we didn’t want him to eat in the small cafeteria. The picture of her eating in the rain makes me cry.
“You have a snack in your bag,” I tell him.
“Does it contain peanuts?” He asked.
Damn! Ash! Rules without peanuts. I took out the offensive bar and put ove in my face.
Looking at his school, I suddenly think, Hey! This is your life, lady. Don’t be upset.
I say his name, pull off my mask and look at him and smile. But I can tell from his reaction that the laughter is very intense and awkward.
I see him as he falls into the dark Mao of his middle school, a small head in the huge, close crowd.
I’m ugly-crying all over the house. (Good luck with the mask.)
At 2:55 p.m., I’m standing outside the school, holding my toes, desperate to catch a glimpse of my son.
When I take her out of the stream of kids, I search her tired eyes – the only thing I can see on her mask.
And in that moment, I believe it was worth it. At that moment, she’s happy, and so am I.
Ali Smith is a writer and photographer. Her most recent book is “Mother Love: How Mother Half Lives.” Joshua Bright is a documentary photographer.