All Escapes Start With the Click of a Lock

A storm can begin with a flap of a wing
The tiniest mite packs the mightiest sting
Every day starts with a tick of a clock
All escapes start with the click of a lock
-Naughty | Matilda the Musical

It's noon on Tuesday. I'm late with this, even if you don't allow for the fact that I skipped last week (we had company). Already today, I've wiped spit and milk and tears from my daughter's face, and from my shoulders, and from her clothes and her stroller and our bed. She's napping, finally, after missing both her morning naps and getting herself all worked up into an overtired, angry mess.

We had a big errand today, you see. First thing this morning, we took Ro to the American Consulate downtown and filed the forms to make her officially American. We put our bags and our phones and our fitbits in a locker at the Staples across the street (all such things being verboten within the consulate doors). A forgotten-about packet of dog treats hidden in a stroller pocket had to be left behind altogether. A manila folder filled with all the records of our lives was all that went inside with us: birth certificates, passports, school transcripts as proof of residence, our marriage certificate. We passed these one by one to a clerk, took an oath that they were all accurate to the best of our knowledge, paid a painful number of dollars (especially given today's conversion rate, ouch) and went to wait while they did some bureaucratic magic behind the curtain.

The waiting room was full of families. A baby younger than Ro nestled against its mother's chest, a toddler playing with blocks and learning her colors in English and Spanish, a family with a gaggle of polite, red-headed kids ranging from Ro's age to early adolescence. The adults smiled silent greetings to one another while the kids crowded around the play table and shyly made friends. 

The TV was on in the room, set to CNN, and after we'd been there waiting for about ten minutes, news broke about the school shooting in Maryland. For the next forty-five minutes, the coverage would churn over and over through the same story without real updates, interspersed with talking heads giving details about What It's Like, about "Run, Hide, Fight," and mini-recaps of the last five similar stories. 

The older kids sat solemnly and watched. A girl of about ten cried silently. The adults sat a little dazed, hugging the littlest ones closer. I wondered, not for the first time, if we were doing the right thing by filing these papers. I thanked the universe it wasn't an American street we'd be walking out onto when we were finished. All this alongside bursts of anger and sadness that I don't feel safe about visiting my home. 

This has to stop. We have to stop worrying about perfect solutions and start somewhere.


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