The distance between my home and that school is 26.29 miles.
I have been there. I have preached in a church there. I have gotten lost looking for another town and ended up there.
It is 26.29 miles away.
I kept it together until four when I just plain abandoned my workplace and went to see Selam. By the time I got to the JCC, she was already in the pool. I stood upstairs, and watched her from the observation window. The pool was full of kids, grades K-4.
Watching kids from the observation window is surreal, even on the best of days. You see them, but cannot hear them. You assume the chlorine, but can’t smell it. You see them slow to a walk, though you don’t hear the lifeguard whistle that made them stop in their tracks. It’s a little like watching a home movie from back in the day.
It was a happy home movie.
Selam knows how to swim, but chooses to dog paddle. She has goggles but wears them on her head. She climbs out to warm up with a towel but jumps back in again. She smiles. She smiles. She smiles. No wonder she ends up swallowing water when she swims. She’s always smiling.
When she straggled up the stairs with her rag-tag group of kindergarten and first graders, I grabbed her, hugged her too tight and too long. “I guess you really missed me today!”
I brought her home. She knew something was up. She knew that most of the other kids had gone home early, and that one of the schools that feeds to the JCC had been on lockdown for a while earlier today. I told her, in broad, general strokes. She had a few questions but wasn’t really fazed.
We ate dinner, tacos. We watched a Christmas movie, snuggled like puppies on the sofa. Her hair smelled like chlorine, her breath like tomatoes.
The bedtime routine went as always: medicine, vitamins, water, toothbrush, bathroom, pajamas, book, hugs and kisses, bed. I wrapped my arm around her belly, holding her tight.
It was a really unremarkable night, all told.
But it really could have been otherwise, just 26.29 miles away.