First Day of School and Safe Havens

Yesterday my daughter started her second year of graduate school. 

I texted her: Have fun. Learn a lot. Don’t hit anyone over the head with a lunch tray.

She texted back three hearts.

When she was in kindergarten, she did hit a kid over the head with a lunch tray. One of the school bullies was picking on her best friend J. The bully of course decided that J was “girlie” because he was in touch with a side of his being that wasn’t tied up in dirt, rolling around, yelling loudly for no reason, and playing superhero. J liked pretty things. He tucked his shirts in. He liked his hair to be a little longer than most boys. 

So the bully decided it was his job to make J a target. J was different. J deserved to be made fun of and called names. Real boys didn’t act like J.

Clara would have none of it. She loved J. He was her friend forever. So she told the bully to stop. The bully only laughed and continued to be mean to J. Then Clara told the bully a second time to STOP. The bully only laughed louder and got meaner. Then Clara hit the bully across the side of his head with a lunch tray.

Clara was the one who got into trouble. No doubt the bully is now living in his parent’s basement picking his nose, drinking gallons of Red Bull and Mountain Dew, and playing video games all day. J is a successful hair stylist and still close with Clara. 

Clara and J will always be close. 

I’m glad my daughter hit that little bastard on the side of the head with a lunch tray in the cafeteria. 

This morning I was out on my deck watching a couple of young bucks (deer, not men) pass by, when a ghostly young buck appeared on the chair next to me. Yes, it was Nigel, The Ghost. 

“School is starting again,” he said with a scowl. I thought he was going to tell me how much he hated school, and that is why he buried his world in art. He eventually was an up and coming break out artist, almost famous, before he was murdered in 1986. But back to the story in hand.

“I take it you didn’t like school,” I said.

“Not at all. I loved school. It was my escape. I couldn’t wait to get out of the house in the mornings. Out of the ugly mess, the smells, the garbage, the strange men who’d come in and out buying drugs and sex. I couldn’t wait to get out of a place where everyone was yelling at me to get out of the way, or be quiet, or where everyone was trying to beat me up. School was clean. I learned about how other people lived. I learned that my life was not normal. I learned how much I truly hated my mother, and my siblings. I hated my dad too, but he was in prison. The few times he was home I’d always hide from him.”

“Nigel, I didn’t know it was that bad,” I said.

“At school nobody made fun of me for being smart. Nobody said you think you’re better than us. I was better than them. That is why they hated me so much. I had friends at school who had dinner at night, and didn’t wash their clothes in the sink, and didn’t have bruises all over their bodies. I had teachers who told me I could graduate from high school, and go to college, or join the air force, or learn to be a mechanic, or do whatever I wanted to do.” 

“You ended up in foster care. How old were you?”

“About thirteen. I’d been in before. This time my best friend’s family took me in. When I was 16 they legally adopted me. Not every kid is that lucky. So yeah, I loved school. The first day of school is like the heavens opening up and giving certain kids a few hours of peace and belonging. Teachers should get paid five times what they’re paid now.”

I made Nigel a cup of coffee, which he smelled, but did not drink. 

“Did you like school?” Nigel asked. “Do Vampires even go to school?”

“I went to school. I liked it ok, sometimes, but I daydreamed most of the time.”

“I can see that,” he said with a wink. “Thanks for the coffee.” Then he vanished.

I thought about school and how many kids I wished I would have hit on the side the head with trays.

Then I thought about how I also learned to escape into history, and maps, and novels, and art, and poetry, and so many other things I learned in school.

For so many reasons it is important that school be a safe haven for all children. It is important that schools be a place where nobody is bullied, ignored, excluded, shot at, or made to feel they aren’t important. School should be a warm nurturing community where children thrive and grow to be amazing adults. 

School has started. Drive safely. Tell you kids you love the, even if they’re grown. 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

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