Not just another first school day
THURSDAY, August 26 – ‘I’m going to be late for work, on purpose,’ I whispered in Eamonn’s ear. It was the first day of the new school year and things were as chaotic as always. The children are super-nervous, and the parents themselves are so worked up they can’t seem to calm their offspring.
For some inexplicable reason, I thought I could just drop him off and then go on to work where I had an important nine-o’clock appointment. I was going up the stairs of the school when I realized that I probably wasn’t going to make it. Eamonn buried his face in my coat and clung to me.
I went inside with him into the jumble of careening children, tense parents, and teachers doing their best to put on a heartwarming face. Eamonn opted for the role of statue and I was his pedestal. The hands of the clock moved inexorably toward nine o’clock. I tried to pry him loose by telling him that I was almost certainly not going to get to Hilversum on time.
He saw his chance. ‘Will you come to the classroom with me?’ he replied. I couldn’t refuse. Just this once, I thought to myself. There was another boy who’d also persuaded his father to go along to the classroom.
‘Do you know why this is so hard for me?’ Eamonn whispered in my ear. ‘My new teacher doesn’t know about what happened.’
‘Of course he knows.’
He didn’t believe me.
Fortunately the teacher came straight over to us. Unasked, he came up with a solution. ‘If necessary, Eamonn can call you during recess. And we have people here he can talk to if things get to be too much for him.’
I looked at Eamonn. ‘You see?’
His face brightened. A new year, but everything was familiar. He would find a place for his grief, in his heart, in the classroom. He gave me a kiss and walked down the corridor with his teacher.
That afternoon he called me: ‘My teacher is fantastic. He’s telling jokes all the time.’ I talked to Eamonn while I was at the pre-seasonal press conference of the Dutch public broadcasting networks. Surrounded by colleagues I’d last seen a year ago, I tried to launch into interesting conversations; however, my attempts were invariably stranded in a brief silence that gave rise to the question: ‘And how are you doing now?’
Will it ever get any easier? Maybe when there are people around me who don’t know about our ordeal?