Green dots.

You are on a journey through places.

You need to find all the green dots to come back.

And hold on to these cards.

Yesterday began with a conversation about safety in school. My kids are elementary age, there would be no anti-gun violence walk out but there would be conversation. So we conversed over bowls poured too full of hazelnut granola and custom toasted bagels, one lightly, one medium and one not-at-all.

We talked about scary things, about people who use guns to hurt other people, about who the safe adults are in their school and the rest of their world, about adventures they want to take and about planning to be safe on those adventures. We talked about power and the power of voices united, about speaking up and why some bigger kids would be walking out. We covered all of this ground in 8 minutes.

The world is often a scary place. Precautions must be taken. Sometimes they include knowing where to go and hide in the event of an emergency. And sometimes they involve some research about the kinds of predators that live in a particular desert and what kind of anti-venom must be secured in advance of one’s trip.

I’m trying to teach them not to be afraid. Or rather to not be so afraid that you don’t go out and live a loud and gloriously messy life. To be brave. To take chances. To speak up. And to be safe.

After breakfast they left for school and I left for work. And a few hours later I received a text about a gunman blocks away from their school.

I called the school but no one picked up. They were locked down. My children were locked down in their classrooms with brave and calm teachers who were delivering custom-crafted messages about what was happening. For the kindergarten, almost none at all. For the second grade, a light version of the truth. For the fourth grade, medium toasted.

I spent 55 minutes in fear and frustration reading twitter feeds and watching live streamed images of snipers. Wondering if I’d said all the right things in our 8 minutes over breakfast. 55 minutes until I received a call from our babysitter reporting that she had the kids and was heading straight home. All was fine. I’d see them soon.

Eventually we heard that it was a hoax. Some sick duck had called the police from far away and reported a hostage situation. No one was physically hurt. That was the good news.

The bad news is that our community was hurt. Our children, our parents, our neighbors, and first responders who raced to help. Our teachers who spent an hour externally keeping kids quiet and calm and entertained, while wondering internally if this would be the day they didn’t make it home. That’s a hurt that lingers.

I got home and the lights were off. My law enforcement husband opened the door. He’d raced home upon hearing the news. And now he stood in the doorway.

His face was serious. But it’s always serious.

“Brace yourself,” he said.

The lights flickered.

I was handed the note above. I was going on a journey.

The kids in their homework-less hours at home created a scavenger hunt. Their dad and I were instructed to find the green dots. They were happy dots on happy things as we moved through worlds they created in all of our bedrooms. There was a “world kindergarten” and a “photo shoot” room. The “ar[c]tic” and a “coffee shop.” We had to collect the dots and hold on to them to come home.

They were fine. The rooms and the kids.

I was not. I moved through each of the rooms looking for green dots. Looking for lightness and adventure while carrying the weight of the day with each step. The anxiety and sadness I felt, the weirdness of a school day that began with gun safety talk and ended on lock down. The Alanis Morissetteness of it all.

But I kept looking for dots. Carrying them with me as instructed. And by the time the dots were all found–after we’d tip-toed through a kindergarten of reading stuffed animals, and petted a cheetah dressed to the nines on a photo shoot stage, and jumped across iceberg pillows, and sipped coffee with Jill the doll and her pal Dolphin–things were different.

By the time we’d collected them all, I was ready to come back. I think I’m going to carry them with me for a while.

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