My youngest went to preschool at the local JCC. She didn’t like preschool, at least not the first year. She cried and spent most of her time up in the loft playhouse, watching the kids playing below.
Her teachers assured me that she was fine after I left—that she was an observer, paid attention to everything, and seemed perfectly content. I’d walk her in, two mornings a week, pick out a book for her to read, and make sure that she had the little stuffed koala bear that was her constant companion when she was 3. Then she’d kiss me goodbye and tearfully climb up the stairs to the little loft. That’s exactly where I’d find her three hours later when I came back to get her.
The next year, she was a lot more confident. She had friends, and activities, and was delighted about going each day. There were no tears. She learned to write her name, and made new friends with girls who are still in her first class today.
She only spent two years at the JCC, but that was where she learned how to be without me, how to be Julianna—an individual in her own right. The JCC is why going off to kindergarten, for my baby, was an exciting adventure.
I don’t have a huge attachment to the JCC, not really. My kids went to religious school there one year, until the school moved back to our synagogue. We swim there in the summers, and my stepdaughters work at the camp each year. But it’s an institution in my little city; it’s where the Federation meetings are held, where I attended the PJ Library events with all three of my kids, and it’s the place where Julianna learned how to be without me for a few hours a day, a few times a week.
Bomb threats happen, right? That’s the world we live in now. They happened a few weeks ago, too, when there was a rash of threats called in at JCCs across the country. I paused, but it was easy to not think about it. It wasn’t happening HERE, after all. I live in Massachusetts, the state where every county voted for Hillary. My Jewish kids are safe here.
Until yesterday… when somewhere, in some room, there was a decision made to target our particular JCC. The bomb threat was just that—a threat. There was no bomb, and the children were never in any danger. But I still feel terrorized. I still feel vulnerable. I feel threatened and unsafe and like I want to go get my kids, happily unaware in their eighth and first grade classroom, and bring them back home—where nobody will fantasize about killing them.
I can’t help thinking about the thinking behind this bomb threat. Did the people who decided to call in a bomb threat wish it was real? Did they think about my babies and wish that they could really blow them up? I don’t know how to do this. I don’t know how to exist in this new world. I don’t know how to explain this to them, to my little girl who is so proud of her Judaism. I want to shield her, to bury my head in the sand and pretend that it isn’t happening.
But someone called in a bomb threat where she played as a toddler, where her sisters work every summer, and where her best friends go for after-school care. This is the new reality, and as much as I wish that I could pretend that none of this was happening, it is.