When I was in kindergarten my parents forgot to pick me up 20 or 30 times. They were getting used to my half day schedule, I think, and because they had gotten divorced a few years prior, it wasn’t a super communicative situation. So I hung out in my classroom alone a lot, letting the afternoon sun bask over my shoulders through the window, while Mrs. Macri sat nearby creating lesson plans or cutting out shapes that we would make into birds the next day. By second grade that number had dwindled to a respectable 4 or 5, but even throughout middle school, every few months I found myself leaning up against the fence outside watching the parade of cars slowly dissipate, and walking into the main office to use the phone to call whomever it was that was supposed to be there and wasn’t. I can remember the “It’s ok”s I said and the ‘I don’t care’ shrugs I conveyed, but I also remember leaning against the fence and sobbing, trying to clean off my salt-stained cheeks before returning to the office for yet another “Please come get me” call.
It’s about mismanaged expectations, I think. As a kid, your expectation is that your parent will be there when they’re supposed to be; that you won’t be in charge of your own well-being. And when that expectation isn’t met, or even partly met with a neighbor in their place or a friend inviting you over, it’s like your own personal rain cloud following you around, just waiting for the right moment to open up. I know the uncomfortable nausea mixed with nerves piled on top of angst and worry that almost drowns you. The feeling that can so easily be whisked away when you’re given the lifeline that is a familiar license plate. The feeling that sounds like a thousand waves crashing at once and feels like a hundred trains rushing by you on both sides.
The expectation is that if someone says they’ll take you somewhere, then you’ll be taken somewhere.